Chances are, if you’ve been anywhere near the internet in the last couple of years, you’ll be familiar with infographics. A current favourite in content marketing, infographics are a simple and effective form of visual storytelling. A new book, entitled “The Best American Infographics 2013”, pays tribute to a number of this year’s especially clever and insightful infographics, and includes an introduction by musician, author and creative force David Byrne.
Says Byrne: “The very best [infographics] engender and facilitate an insight by visual means – allow us to grasp some relationship quickly and easily that otherwise would take many pages and illustrations and tables to convey. Insight seems to happen most often when data sets are crossed in the design of the piece – when we can quickly see the effects on something over time, for example, or view how factors like income, race, geography, or diet might affect other data. When that happens, there’s an instant ‘Aha!’”
Byrne describes a good infographic as “elegant, efficient, and accurate”. This elegance is summed up in one of the selections in the book, entitled “How To Be Happy”, by Gustavo Vieira Dias, creative director at DBB Tribal Vienna. The infographic asks readers the simple question “Is life good?”, with two potential answers. If the reader believes that yes, their life is good, then the infographic simply congratulates them: “Good.” If life for the viewer is not good, however, then the infographic prescribes: “Change something.” Once the reader has changed something in their life, the infographic invites them to answer the first question again: “Is life good?”
The simple, succinct appeal of infographics like this has led to something of a backlash, though. Byrne acknowledges that “charts and figures can be used to support almost any argument… Bad infographics are deadly!” And unfortunately, “bad infographics” are becoming increasingly prevalent, as the medium is being used less and less to convey meaningful information, and more as a means to draw web traffic and boost engagement.
“Ideally,” says Byrne, “an educated consumer of infographics might develop some sort of infographic bullshit detector… It’s not easy, as one can be seduced relatively easily by colours, diagrams and funny writing.”
Long story short? Infographics are powerful. Use them wisely!