200 words on infographics

Recently, I was asked to share my thoughts on the "future of infographics" for an article Arnie Kuenn was writing for the Content Marketing Institute. The words I shared with him are below; the full article, where four other experts weigh in with their thoughts as well, can be found here.

Infographics run the gamut, from fluffy to informative. On the former side, we are presented with elements like over-sized numbers and portions of filled in little man-shapes. The graphics appear glamorous and have a sort of sex appeal that draws you in. Unfortunately, upon further evaluation, these visual displays are often shallow and leave me dissatisfied. On the other end of the spectrum are infographics that actually inform; many of the good examples I’ve seen here are in the area of data journalism (e.g. Alberto Cairo’s work).

There are critical questions an information designer must be able to answer before they begin the design process: who is your audience? and what do you need them to know or do? It’s only after the answers to these questions can be succinctly expressed that an effective method of display that will best aid the message can be chosen. Good data visualization (infographic or otherwise) tells a story.

While I’m not certain what the future will bring when it comes to the landscape of infographics, my hope is that the trend will be away from the fluffy data-dump and towards visualizations that are thoughtfully designed to impart information and tell a story.