Infographics are a crime against communicating meaningful information. Sadly, they have  spread insidiously over the internet to entice weary eyeballs and frazzled brains into a brightly-coloured world of indecipherable nothingness. 

Don't know what I'm talking about? Then check out this collection of gems (warning: prepare to hurl!).

Purported advantages of infographics is that they present information in a manner that is easy to read and fun; that they take complex data and reduce them to easy to decipher collections of symbols, pictures, colours, typefaces and effects; that viewers of these graphics will holla with joy and share them with their soon to be worse off friends.

While it's true they are frequently shared (mores the pity), in terms of readability, pleasure, accuracy, and usefulness they fail. 

A reason for this is that infographics consist mostly of "chartjunk" (coined by visualisation expert Edward Tufte). This entirely superfluous characteristic obscures information and directly affects ease of interpretation. And as most infographic effort is directed at making chartjunk, it is pretty clear why they don't work.

Compounding this vexing issue for me is that there are infographics for almost every social media phenomenon imaginable (a few examples here). In fact, I get spam asking if I want to check out infographics hoping that I might actually pay for the pleasure of owning one.

There are even infographics made to illustrate how bad infographics are. This is level of meta-ness is completely unnecessary and I'm afraid - not clever. It is simply more unwanted visual pollution and in these days of sustainable sensitivities, highly irresponsible.

Now let's look at a classic chart to see what is wrong with infographics  - namely the humble pie chart. My view is that the pie chart is the direct ancestor of the infographic.
Chart made by Sean McGinnis
The problems with the pie chart above are self-evident as they are with infographics (look closer). For better criticisms though, read this post at Cyncerely and this other one by Erick Schonfeld.

The irony is that it takes more effort to produce one of these garish, colour-filled monstrosities than it does simply describing facts with - you know - words. So try using them instead. Please.

If you happen to like infographics, please tell me why in the comments below (I advise using plain old text otherwise comment approval is unlikely to be given).


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