The plight of the Infographic

November 14, 2011 at 11:18 PM 2 comments

Like others, I’ve been lured to crappy content because of the “i” word – and I’m not talking about one of the glorious inventions from Apple.

The term “infographic” has become so over-used it’s earned its place on buzz-word bingo cards across business. (In other news, synergy just fell out of circulation on those cards, so feel free to use that again without shame!)

The good news is nothing online is impervious to a snarky post, and with a little leverage maybe some communicators will hear my rant. I’ve heard they respond best to sarcasm and hyperbole so I’ll do my best. It’s more fun to write anyway – the same kind of fun I find when I turn my bar-room napkin notes into a flow-chart nightmare hoping to confuse the audience into thinking I’m smart. #WorksEveryTime

Feast of Knowledge on Board.

Plus reading normal copy is boring. If it’s not served up on an image of the Mayflower to denote that it’s serving my mind a Thanksgiving feast-full of knowledge, I’m not interested.

Face it. We’ve been overstimulated to the point that black & white verbiage is passé. Every clever idea, concept, joke, list, post or proposal is dull without a visual representation to accompany it. Hopefully with some random wording, arrows and glitter to catch my attention.

To be fair, an infographic is a great way to convey complicated models or less-than-concrete concepts in a concise, engaging manner. But the types of diagrams we’re calling “infographics” these days are ridiculous. Slapping your top-ten list on a stock-image of hedgehogs isn’t cute, it’s distracting and adds little value.

A good rule of thumb: If the content isn’t good to begin with, dressing it up with graphics doesn’t help. It’s the idea that counts.

This isn’t the case all the time, and there’s plenty of great infographics out there, but they only serve their purpose when the graphics, data and text work together to tell the message. Clarity is key; communication should drive an outcome.

In case you’re feeling the infographic itch, remember my snark and ask yourself the three questions I use –  and none of them deal with the colors, fonts or clip art I’m going to use. They speak to the basics:

1)      Who am I talking to? (audience)
2)      What’s the essence of what’s being communicate? (the simplest form)
3)      What’s the best way to communicate this? (channel)

If the answer to number three is some combination of charts and text, I’ll pursue a concept for an infographic. It’s helpful for the simplicity demanded in question 2, and can tie complex ideas together in a way that’s conducive to self-learning – something we all do constantly via the ‘net.

And in case you’re disappointed I didn’t create an (unnecessary) infographic for this post, I’ve listed a few sites below with more good examples of when to use this specific communication device:

…as well as some awful ones for all y’haters:


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Weaving your networking safety net TFMCNB – 11/5/11 – Mediocre PR

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. ToddSledzik (@tsledzik)  |  November 15, 2011 at 1:02 PM

    I love that some of your “bad” examples look fairly nice, but upon closer inspection, we find them to be entirely unnecessary or that they communicate the wrong message. From a design perspective, the goal should still be to create effective, on point communication. As a designer who’s been forced to execute some crappy ideas (#polishingturds), I agree that bad briefs, containing misguided strategy are at fault. No amount of design saves lousy content or poorly targeted communication (as you’ve said).

  • 2. ToddSledzik (@tsledzik)  |  November 15, 2011 at 1:49 PM

    This image hangs on the cork board above my desk (back cover of Designing Brand Identity by Alina Wheeler) Very similar to your “3 basics,” perhaps suggesting communication is communication, regardless of the label we put on it (be it PR, branding, design, marketing, etc.)

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