11 reasons your infographic isn’t an infographic

Ian Lurie demolishes crap infographics:

OK everyone. Take a deep, freaking breath. I can’t sneeze right now without spraying germs on someone’s attempt at a data-driven work of art.

Here’s why the poster you paid someone $400 to make isn’t an infographic:

  1. Lack of clarity. Infographics should ease and speed the consumption of information. If you take something you can express in 25 words and turn it into 1000 x 3000 pixels of eye-watering garbage, it’s not an infographic. It’s a waste of paper.
  2. Lack of data. Infographics used to communicate data. Like this. Now, apparently, I can turn a fax machine manual into a poster and get it posted to 55 different infographics directories. Retch.
  3. Low information density. An infographic is more effective than words describing the same subject. Otherwise it’s art. Which is cool and all. But it’s not an infographic.
  4. Lack of flow. An infographic should lead me from introduction to conclusion, somehow. It should help me solve or understand a problem. If it doesn’t, it’s a graphic, minus the info. This Visually piece is a great example of infographic flow.

[Etc…]

Ending the infographic plague

The Atlantic have taken up my campaign against crap infographics:

Now that Obama’s dog has won the War on Christmas, or something, it’s time to get down to a war that really matters: the war on terrible, lying infographics, which have become endemic in the blogosphere, and constantly threaten to break out into epidemic or even pandemic status.

The reservoir of this disease of erroneous infographics is internet marketers who don’t care whether the information in their graphics is right … just so long as you link it. As a Christmas present to, well, everyone, I’m issuing a plea to bloggers to help stop this plague in its track.

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Infographic creators have a 5 second attention span

Social Times yesterday posted an infographic (sponsored by AssistedLivingToday – slogan: ‘Information you can trust’). They introduce it by highlighting the most interesting statistic, which will be the focus of this blog post.

According to a fascinating infographic entitled “How Social Media is Ruining Our Minds,” over the course of the last ten years the average attention span has dropped from 12 minutes to a staggeringly short 5 seconds. As a person deeply ensconced in this connected age my experience shows this to be true. These days, we give a YouTube video just a few seconds to determine if it’s worth it. So what else does social media and technology affect within our minds?

This is the relevant section of the infographic:

Five second attention span

Shocking yes? Perhaps a little too shocking to be true?

Yup…

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The evolution of the web

Here’s another infographic that looks pretty, but fails at conveying information in any useful way: The Evolution of the Web.

[...] To pay homage to the goodness of the web, we’ve put together an interactive infographic, built in HTML5, which details the evolution of major web technologies and browsers:

via Happy third birthday, Chrome! – googleblog.blogspot.com

I understand the timeline aspect, showing major revisions, but what are the coloured lines illustrating? According to the page:

The color bands in this visualization represent the interaction between web technologies and browsers, which brings to life the many powerful web apps that we use daily.

Which sounds a bit hand-wavy to me. Lets look at the interaction of JavaScript with web browsers in more detail, for example:

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Informationless graphics

A picture is worth a thousand words right? But what about a picture AND a thousand words? Whoa. You may just have an infographic on your hands.

From airline safety manuals to complex data visualizations, I have always been fascinated by infographics. A well done infographic has the power to capture one’s acute attention span and convey information that would have taken longer to simply read (oh no, not reading!). However, for every brilliantly thought out and well executed mashup of art and data, there now seems to be an influx of mundane and formulaic counterparts infesting the very internet that we hold so near and dear.

(via An Intimate Look at Infographics – thinkbrilliant.com)

The backlash against pointless infographics has begun. Let’s speed this one along…

Bounce rate demystified

Recently, while looking at the Google analytics for this site, I noticed that my bounce rate was very high. I wasn’t very clear on what this meant, so investigated and concluded that there wasn’t much I could do about it given the type of content I post here.

So a new infographic on Kissmetrics caught my eye today: Bounce Rate Demystified.

I’m not a big fan of this current infographic craze, partly because they lock the data into a very web-unfriendly, non-interactive format, and partly because they are usually nothing more than transparent linkbait, with little or no actual informational substance.

My previous post challenged the former complaint. In this post I’ve decided to dissect the bounce rate infographic and see how good the information really is…

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Sexy CSS3 infographics: I propose a revolution!

There have been two separate trends on the web in recent months and years:

  1. Infographics are everywhere, typically in the form of long JPEGs. These are often criticised as being poor examples of information design (or just poor examples of design), but they still seem popular.
  2. Creating snazzy effects with CSS3 and HTML5. Increasing support for dropshadows, rounded corners, gradients, real fonts, rotation and all other kinds of nice visual enhancements, has resulted in masses of experimental designs. It’s even possible to create many types of fantastic (and terrible) charts and graphs, as well as icons and illustrations.

So CSS3 and infographics are a natural fit. They could be interactive, animated, hyperlinked, semantic and searchable. Besides, making big dumb JPEGs for the web just seems like a retrograde step. Why not put that effort into making a really nice page?

(How the Internet works / “Infographic”)

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iA’s Cosmic 140 poster – just an infogimmick?


(via informationarchitects.jp)

Apart from helping you identify the really big users, this graphic tells you absolutely nothing at a glance. It’s not even useful to identify Twitter’s most followed user – you have to glance around a bit and decode the numbers to figure that out.

And the categories are far from useful: Michael Jordan is halfway between music and sport, while Conan O’Brien is under entertainment, but has no crossover into humour at all. Bill Gates and Eric Schmidt are classified under technology, near art and design but miles away from business.

Pure gimmickry, and not even that appealing visually. Or am I missing the point?