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Infographics – love ’em or hate ’em?

October 16, 2011
Charles Minard's 1869 chart showing the losses...

Image via Wikipedia

In my previous post, I was grappling with marrying graphic + instructional design, and kept finding myself thinking about infographics.

They aren’t really new, this is the classic military loss infographic produced for Napolean by Charles Minard in 1869. But nowadays, we can’t seem to escape them, and they are beginning to have a bit of a polarizing effect. Have they jumped the shark? Are they useful? Do they contribute to the dumbing down of complex issues? Are they a democratic way of explaining complex issues in simpler terms?

I’m speculating that graphic designers are squeamish about non-graphic designers creating appalling ones and foisting them upon an unsuspecting (internet) public. Instructional designers are seeing more ways of communicating visually that they hadn’t before. While instructional designers (like me) may not produce the best infographics out there, the fact that we are trying to use them to convey information and help people learn is a good thing. Whether or not all the good intentions are flattened by poor execution remains to be seen.

As a freelancer, I’m often asked to “convert” existing face-to-face courses to online and sent the obligatory “slide deck” (how’s that for a retro-phrase). And, I have to help them understand that the info dump may be fast, but not necessarily effective. We need to ask how infographics can help people learn. I, for one, am hoping to create more and better e-learning because of infographics. Thinking visually, as in: “how can I convey this instead of 10 bullet points of text?”. Can I use an infographic as a navigation framework instead of a linear approach with a next button?

Here are just a few infographic related tweets that I saw this week:

Why infographics matterExamples and best practices as well as here. And more samples from visual.ly, and at xplane on this site. Many seem to say this is infographics at it’s best, while this site needs no explanation (click and you’ll see why), it shows infographics in a less than positive light. And if you are curious about whether or not they have staying power…the future of infographics.

Are you using infographics? If so, in what way? How do you approach them? What are your do’s/don’t’s?

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 20, 2011 2:38 am

    I think it’s important to differentiate between what has typically been called an infographic and the current crop of “infoposters.” Effective infographics visualize data or information in a way that makes it easier to understand or promotes a novel way of thinking about the data. Online, they are often interactive.

    Infoposters (which many people mistakenly think are infographics), on the other hand, do very little visualization. They might include a graph or chart here and there, but mostly they communicate through words and use iconic types of graphics that don’t add much to the communication. This is a pet peeve of mine and I explain it further here: http://understandinggraphics.com/visualizations/infoposters-are-not-infographics/.

    • hollymacdonald permalink*
      October 20, 2011 10:05 am

      Great point Connie – thanks for adding that perspective – I hadn’t heard the term infoposter (almost like imposter!) and the link.

Trackbacks

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