The value of an infographic

Infographics are the new black. Well maybe not, bet they sure are popular these days. And that’s too bad. It’s too bad because today it seems that every JPG including some data and pictures is an infographic. Every day at least one of those pops up in my reader and I don’t know what the name for those JPGs should be but we sure shouldn’t refer to them as infographics.

“The purpose of visualization is insight, not pictures” Ben Shneiderman (1999)

So in case of infographics, if the visualization doesn’t enable you to have a clearer view on the information/data below, it’s pretty much worthless. Because if it doesn’t do that, it’s just another summation of data. Adding ‘clipart’ to it doesn’t change that fact. Manuel Lima did an interesting exercise to create an Information Visualization Manifesto which is worth reading.

“Form Follows Function. Form doesn’t follow data. Data is incongruent by nature. Form follows a purpose, and in the case of Information Visualization, Form follows Revelation. Take the simplest analogy of a wooden chair. Data represents all the different wooden components (seat, back, legs) that are then assembled according to an ultimate goal: to seat in the case of the chair, or to reveal and disclose in the case of Visualization. Form in both cases arises from the conjunction of the different building blocks, but it never conforms to them. It is only from the problem domain that we can ascertain if a layout may be better suited and easier to understand than others. Independently of the subject, the purpose should always be centered on explanation and unveiling, which in turn leads to discovery and insight.”

Keep on sharing those infographics, but stick to the real ones please. The ones that you can find on sites like +Datavisualization.ch. Everything else is a waste of time.

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