Should we just consider badly constructed Info-Graphics as nothing more than pieces of “Graphic Art”, or should the potential to mislead be a serious concern to us all?
The persuasive power of numbers, in the form of statistics, has been used and abused by everyone with an argument to make since the first abacus was invented. However as we all know pictures “speak a thousand words” and the growth of Info-graphics, and the tools that produce them, has been prolific.
And so to my point… given how our little human minds work, our eyes are literally “drawn to pictures”, (see the link to a revealing example of this below ! ). Pictures make an impression like no table of numbers ever can. Properly executed this is a powerful tool for education and good, badly executed this is not only a waste of an opportunity it could even be used to deliberately mislead.
What factors determine a good info-graphic from graphic-art? – Here are a few suggestions and I welcome your thoughts….
- Credible source data and source accreditations
- Accurate interpretations of scale (e.g. don’t represent stated numbers with a picture unless the scale accurately represents those numbers)
- Careful use of color conventions (try painting a start sign red and a stop sign green and you will see what I mean)
- “Balanced” written commentary
Try working through this recent info-graphic (click to view) from the good folks at Cisco. Since the source is a reputable one I am going to take the figures as read – even the ones we can’t easily prove or disprove such as the number of IP addresses vs atoms on earth. (personally my first instinct is surprise at this however any physicists out there please reveal your answers now…)
It’s an interesting picture that combines simple line and picture drawings to represent connections and tell a story over time. It also uses diagrams such as the world population that are unclear as to whether the size/volume of the shapes represents actual numbers (or just a graphic to show rising size).
When you take an info-graphic apart in this way its surprising how more questions than answers can be raised.
(For those of you interested in the focal power of images on the human mind – in this case the male mind – and who haven’t yet heard of the (true) story of how Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam reduced their cleaning bills in the gents restrooms you might want to check this out)
Visual.ly – an infographics resource with promise of more tools to follow…
Gooogle Public Data Explorer – in beta with Google Labs, so I’m not sure where the team will relocate this app to but it’s worth checking out before it moves
Infomous – we’re divided on this Twitter graphic as to whether this is a true info-graphic or more graphic art, what do you think?