Infographics

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A diagram in Fast Company shows the different forms of Infographics which have become more and more popular over the last 5 or 10 years. It seems we can’t cope any more with raw numbers, we have to have them prettily coloured and arranged like a tube map or a periodic table.

The problem with that is that there were always “lies, damn lies and statistics” and infographics often make understanding the raw data intelligently more difficult not less.

When we look at an infographic, we have to ask not only: what does the data say, but also: what does the data illustrator want us to believe. A critical mind is essential to proper understanding.

Fastcompany.com/infographics


Hang on, Wendii, you're

Hang on, Wendii, you're stomping on my turf here--information delivery (I are an editor!).

My guess is that you saw a bad infographc and decided to rant a little--please provide a link so that we can investigate this alleged infocrime. In the meantime, let's keep it straight: Infographics are not bad, mis-infographics are bad. People who use charts, graphs, statistics, and other tools to tell lies are bad, ignorant, reckless, or some combination. The result is propaganda, not information.

The periodic table IS an infographic (and quite an elegant one, I might add).

It is not that "we can’t cope any more with raw numbers," it is that raw numbers often obscure the underlying information. Converting raw numbers into charts and graphs makes the data more accessible and puts it in context, which can help people make effective decisions. Like whether to launch the space shuttle or not.

But you knew that. Mike and Mark do a good job in 'The Right Chart' explaining why different types of charts tell better stories than other charts do.

That is Step 1. Beyond charts, comes integrating charts and tables, sparklines, annotated photographs, and exploded illustrations. See The Wall Street Journal's Guide to Infographics for a great two-page chart plotting richness of data and visual impact for various types of output from simple narrative to a display package with multiple charts and photos.

The magazine that I work for uses infographics in every issue. Infographics allow us to pack a ton of information into a small space, while making the information more accessible. To do this, it is important that the information choose the graphic element that will convey it (text, drawing, chart, photo, some combination).

Here's an example from my magazine, Fine Homebuilding: How It Works: Heat Islands. 

Here's another great interactive example from the Pew Research Center -- Map: US Migration Flows.

But you were probably talking about reckless info delivery. Like the Microsoft ad I saw on TV a little while ago and blogged about in my newly-hatched blog, InfoTruck (shameless plug).

Happy new year,

Dan Morrison

LinkedIn

infographics - howItworks

 This thread came in very handy to me, thanks.

I work for an engineering company.

We are looking at ways of sharing critical information among people among projects.

We are looking at ways of transferring information from us to project owner to operational owner.  

We design pipelines.  We see that a lot of trouble, actually a lot of harm to the environment and a lot of carbon footprint (and by the way a lot of money), could be saved if we can find a way to transfer better information that are contained on the repots that end up being forgotten or lost somewhere as people that ran the projects do not run the operations, people that ran the operation are now running the operation somewhere else, and nobody ever read the repots again!

We are looking at ways of transferring critical information so that that people, decision makers, can within a few seconds have access to that information and make the right decision. 

People will not get all the information, and bad decisions will still be made, but it is sad to know that the wrong decisions are made because something that was obvious to someone with the time to dig in the information did not become obvious to somebody else because the critical information was lost as the people moved jobs.

Infographics seem to be a nice way to convey critical information fast.  I will investigate further into it.  We are also looking at ways of linking the more detail information within the graphical interphase so that people can dig in further and further through mouse clicks if they do have the time and make their own decision.

I do agree a critical mind is essential to proper understanding.  So is critical information.  And so is time.  If there is a way we can convey critical information in less time so that someone can spend time analysing it, and thinking about it, and making sure what needs to get done, I believe it is welcome.  Fair enough the information will be transmitted with the eyes of whom arrange the information.  But that is exactly what we are looking after.  I don´t want people to miss the handful of points that are critical because they were lost reading lots of text and graph that it is nice information, but for those who have the time, which nowadays seem to be a luxury with the overload of information we have.....

Nara

I'd say MOST are bad...

Because poor choices are made about what's important and why it's important, and the choices the editor made are not clear, or worse, tendentious and intentionally opaque.

That said, good ones are priceless.  There was a graphics editor at Fortune a number of years ago who put together some of the best graphs with multiple data on them, and conclusions were easy, clear, and immediate.

Here's one I thought was dumbed down in a lame way:

http://collegecandy.com/2010/11/03/the-history-of-women-in-the-workplace...

Mark

Nara, two quick points:

1. Give a listen to M&M's 'The Right Chart' podcast. It is very good, even for a couple of engineers :)

2. BLUF--Bottom Line Up Front. Almost always the best way to present important info -- charts, graphs, reports, meetings. It sets the reader/listener's expectations so that they know what to focus on (which makes them feel smart, which makes them happy). If you focus on the most important information, then it should be pretty easy to strip away the info-clutter.

Corporate communications can be a nightmare. Even within a small publishing company full of good editors and art directors, we get some charts and graphs covering analytics that take longer to get info from than the numbers in an excel sheet would.

Active voice, short sentences, and plain language are beautiful things that are too underutilized.

Finding ways to push the peanut forward with better internal info-delivery standards will pay big dividends in the long run. In the short run it is a lot like pushing a rock up hill -- thankless, tiring, and sometimes hazardous.

Good luck.

Dan Morrison

LinkedIn

Dan, thanks for the excellent points

 Dan, thank you so much for the reply and the excellent points.  We Will use them and the podcast as guidelines.  

And thank so much for the priceless advice on the last paragraph.  I was just thinking on how do you do it given That each people see the information and look for different information upfront depending on their expectations and this can be quite challenging and frustrating.  The visualización of pushing a rock up hill really helps easying the frustration.  I Will make sure neither the hill is too steep neither the rock too big at first.

Mark, thanks as well on the encouragement That good inflo graphics are priceless.  Exactly our target is having the right people decide what is important and what the bluf points are.  The problem is That Other people Will structure the information. As this is across various management areas management and good comunication among stakeholders is crucial.  And this is only achievable through manager-tools.  So thanks for the 500 casts as well.

Thanks,

Nara

College Candy? Yikes!

Yup, lame. Timelines can be a great way to convey information, but most of that one is wasted space. More for decoration than information. Here's a timeline I made for an elementary school yearbook: http://whistlepigpress.com/downloads/timeline_poster.pdf A lot of information lacked into a single page but in snack-sized packages that kids will nibble on. Wendii, Many of those infographics featured at Fast Company are bad, as you said. The millenials graphic is mostly chart junk, and slows the info delivery compared to a simple, clear flow chart with simple arrows would. The 'Women in Numbers' graphic has a lot of problems, which I am using as the topic of a blog post over at InfoTruck (another shameless plug). Mostly, it delivers part of the story, with partial context, over and over -- using poor graph choices. Comparing two things with pie charts, for example. But there are plenty of great examples out there. Harvard Business Review does a two-page 'Vision Statement' in each issue, National Geographic is fantastic, Scientiffic American, New York Times. Please don't throw the baby out with the bath water -- some of us really do care about the information we publish. Thanks for your work,

Dan Morrison

LinkedIn

infographics and skills development and integration

BLUF: I am trying to convey a road map for skills development and skills integration management through info graphics.  Has any body done so, done something similar, and can give me some advice or direct me to some books on information sharing tools that may help?

I appreciate any help.

Nara

ALL STORY:

Ever since I read this post by Wendii rather than looking at info graphics with criticism I looked at the power it has in conveying information to people and precisely in convening the information I want to convey.  I read Wendii sentence:

"When we look at an infographic, we have to ask not only: what does the data say, but also: what does the data illustrator want us to believe. A critical mind is essential to proper understanding."

And I flip it around:

When I look at a lot of information, I have to ask myself: what does the data say and what do I want to communicate to other people from what the data is telling me (because clearly people are not looking at the data).  

And I am working with infographics to do that.  Don´t get me wrong.  I am still providing the detail information for people to make their own judgement, but I am using the info graphics to make it more attractive to people to dig further into the information.

As Horstman´s rule goes: "Say it 7 times and half of the people will say they heard it once."  Can I improve that statistics by saying it through Info-graphics?  

I am now trying to convey a road map for skills development and integrated resource management (across geographic locations and across different units) through info graphics.  I didn´t come yet across examples for that but I did come across examples for CV´s in info graphics which I share with you and I welcome opinions whether people see the trend of info graphics playing a more important role also in sharing technical information.

http://www.coolinfographics.com/blog/2010/1/8/16-infographic-resumes-a-v...

The examples you link to

The examples you link to look great at first glance, though many of the links are dead, so we can't really take a deeper look. I think the subway-map concept could do a good job at conveying a career path -- with offshoots, circles-back, etc. I also think the stacked line chart could show depth of activities over time, but it has the potential to get hard to read real fast, which is the opposite of what you want to convey.

The key question is "What does the information need in order to make itself apparent?"

It is not about which nifty device you can cram info into.

As a resource, I recommend the Wall Street Journal's Guide to Information Graphics by Donna Wong. It is an excellent resource for conveying information accurately and quickly.

Here is the critique I wrote on one of the Fast Company infographics that Wendii referenced in her blog post:

http://infotruck.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/fast-company-infographic-revie...

It is part four, the other parts are linked to in the article.

Hope that helps,

Dan

Dan Morrison

LinkedIn

Thanks Dan!

 Dan, thanks so much.  The critique your wrote on the Fast Company infographics is really good and I can really use it as guide in designing our own.  I can see that I am thinking the correct way: what is the most important think I want to highlight.  Also I can see that I am right about being concerned about people not misinterpreting what I want to show on the graphs, as clearly there is not enough room to show everything. The example you give about the difference in colours between Argetina and Switzerland help me see that.  

I am working with a graphical designer who does wonders at interpreting the message I want to say.  Your blog helps me see all the background and knowledge and underling messages that are behind the choices made in the design.  It sort of creates a bridge between my language and the graphical designer language.  I need to focus on the information I want to make apparent and the designer will focus on how to get that information most apparent.

I share with you a link someone shared with me yesterday and I thought was a work of art!  Beautiful! 

http://htwins.net/scale2/scale2.swf?bordercolor=white