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As Infographic Fatigue Strikes, Is The Craze Over?

Infographic FatigueThe 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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  • http://twitter.com/CloudNineRec Steve Ward (@CloudNineRec)

    Good post, and glad our discussion ignited it.
    I was being cheeky with stats when I suggested that `Here’s a stat: 95% of infographics stink` – put that in a colourful rectangle and derive some marketable insights from it!”

    But I mean it. When infographics are concise, square, summarizing and headliney – they are potent. Now, we get infographics where I have to scroll down to see the second half – if I can be bothered (usually not)

    Mashable started the overkill, but then for me – Pinterest was the killer, in my eyes. (http://cloudnine-media.co.uk/2012/03/05/shoes-mild-porn-and-flippin-infographics-welcome-pinterest/)
    When businesses started to find some way of crowbarring a social media campaign out of Pinterest, they used infographics. There are lists, and lists, and lists of infographics.

    That’s where the overkill began.

    When someone posts a blog with [infographic] in the title or Twitter promo – I’m probably not going to read it. I expect the worst now.

  • http://futurecomms1.wordpress.com Paul Sutton

    Love that post you linked to, Steve. I’m the same – don’t really get or use Pinterest very much. Other than to bookmark infographics :)

    The thing is, infographics aren’t going away. Although I titled this post ‘Is the craze over?’, it clearly isn’t. Not by a long shot. Done well, infographics are fantastic. It’s just that the vast majority aren’t done well. I long for the day when people do start to lose interest so that those doing a good job with them can start to flourish again. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking…

  • Geoff Livingston

    Please say that it is!!!!

    • http://futurecomms1.wordpress.com Paul Sutton

      I wish, Geoff. Us marketers tend to spoil everything, don’t we?!

  • http://twitter.com/anjajessen anja jessen (@anjajessen)

    I’m sure there was an article somewhere 100+ years ago with the header “Photo fatigue strikes! Is the craze over?” Infographics are a good and clever tool to communicate complex matters. IF they are well done. See the big “if”? And oh so many just are terrible, jump-on-the-waggon-quick and utterly redundant. Ugh. Yes, we do tend to spoil things …

    • http://futurecomms1.wordpress.com Paul Sutton

      That’s the crux of the entire issue for me, Anja. I’m not knocking infographics – I think they’re great if a) they’re done well, and b) they’re warranted. But as you quite rightly say, most are completely pointless. Thanks for leaving your thoughts.

      • http://twitter.com/anjajessen anja jessen (@anjajessen)

        Funny thing – have you ever tried to create one? They are very hard to do well. So, kudos to whoever gets one right. Similar to blogposts, really :)

        • http://futurecomms1.wordpress.com Paul Sutton

          I’ve written them, but not designed them. Not my bag. It’s a definite skill.

  • http://twitter.com/andynowlan Andeh. (@andynowlan)

    Pretty much every one I see these days reminds me of this image I picked up a year or two ago, ‘infauxgraphics’… http://andynowlan.posterous.com/infauxgraphics :)

    • http://futurecomms1.wordpress.com Paul Sutton

      Haha! Spot on. Didn’t need to write 400 words, did I? Should have done an infographic.

  • http://www.hurricanemedia.co.uk Mark

    This infographic actually made me quite angry: http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/pinterest-twitter-facebook_b21888

    Don’t question our made up statistics, just look at the pretty pictures and hopefully you’ll swallow whatever it is we’re trying to feed you. If a child presented their work like this they’d be laughed at, no substance whatsoever, based on a miniscule amount of research – let’s just make some massive assumptions about continued pace of growth based on one retailers limited experiences. A well researched infographic is awesome, and can make presenting of complex data much more interesting and visually appealing, the example shown is just lazy cheap-assed marketing.

    • http://futurecomms1.wordpress.com Paul Sutton

      I saw that one too. Awful, awful, awful.

      The major issue is the data. Solid, interesting data should make an interesting graphic. Poor data can’t be rescued by design alone. Especially when that’s poor as well.

  • http://twitter.com/DrDanielleLee Dr. Danielle Lee (@DrDanielleLee)

    I don’t think we should abandon infographics altogether, but we need to be more precise about what we include and to make them as user friendly as possible. I found it to be a good tool with boards. Like most tools, they don’t get the job done if they’re poorly written or fail to give a snap shot view of the organizations their designed for.

    • http://futurecomms1.wordpress.com Paul Sutton

      I agree. Used properly, infographics are fantastic. The issue is that the majority are pointless, and that creates apathy towards them which is hard to cut through.

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