The visual web has exploded this year, and with it the number of infographics. You can hardly visit a website nowadays without being exposed to an infographic of one kind or another and it’s starting to feel like we’ve reached saturation point. Whereas only six months ago an infographic was relatively progressive, attracted a lot of attention and was therefore pretty effective as a communications tool, now every man and his dog is using them to present pretty much anything. And as a result, they’re starting to suffer from white noise syndrome.
The major issue is that the quality of infographics is on a direct inverse correlation with the volume. The more they’re used, the worse they’re getting. So many now lack any real purpose or, seemingly, any objective. They’re being done because infographics are the new shiny tool on the block. (Or rather, were.) They lack any rationale and are packed full of utterly pointless data with no discernable benefit. Well here’s news: putting your dull stats into an infographic, no matter how pretty, doesn’t make the core data any more interesting or useful.
Is There Any Benefit?
I was chatting to Steve Ward and Beth Carroll about this on Facebook. “95% of infographics have too much repetitive information in too much detail”, said Steve. “I find reading stuff in paragraphs is easier that trying to decipher the majority of today’s visuals. Infographics were a brilliant idea intended to simplify data, but they’ve now turned into thousands of examples of too much information, often in no discernible order.”
Beth has a different view, however. “There’s a lot more poorly written text out there”, she said. “I think infographics make life more digestible and aesthetically pleasing.” She points to an infographic of infographics to illustrate the potential benefits.
For me, I can’t help but feel that so many current infographics are completely unnecessary. Either they’re cluttered and irrelevant or they’re not really infographics at all, they’re just pictures. Many are poorly thought through and have no benefit to the producer whatsoever. Infographics have unfortunately developed into awkward and inept visuals with little idea of impactful design and even less true purpose or benefit. If you really must do them, it’s worth checking out this great post by Mark Smiciklas on the importance of setting objectives. But I think we’ve reached infographic overkill. And while I think it’s a real shame, it’s time for something new.
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