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INFOGRAPHICS – FASHION OR EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES?

 

describe the imageIt turns out, according to a new book released this month, that the currently fashionable infographic really isn’t that novel an idea – traced back by Julius Wiedemann to at least the mid-1600s!

Of course, presenting data-heavy information graphically has been a fact of life ever since the invention of, well, the graph! So it’s not a new trend, but why is it capturing so much attention at the moment – to the point that some in the media, marketing and design world are already growing tired of them?!

Unsurprisingly, it comes down to information and the almost unnerving growth in our production of it. The ease with which I can write and publish this blog – and subsequently tweet it and promote it via other social networks – clearly demonstrates this.

There aren’t many people out there who can spend their lives staring at spreadsheets of rows and rows of numbers and absorbing reams of written material, so data needs to be presented in an easily digestable format, hence the historic use of graphs. Instead of trying to read and compare the figures, we can easily appreciate the difference between the big bar on the left of the graph compared to the smaller bar on the right – as the meerkat says, simples!

But our lives at home and at work, as is often reported (yet more information!), are assaulted almost constantly by new, refreshed or regurgitated data, making even the time spent to assess plain graphs and charts a precious commodity. We need to appreciate what the information all means, and quickly, so those wanting us to review their summaries (no doubt with their bias included) need to do so in an engaging and even fun way.

More than ever in the modern world, a format needs to be used that actually makes the digestion of the data a pleasure, not a chore. The colourful, engaging, sequential structure of an infographic, especially in the current fashion, actually lends itself well to this – quick and easy provision of information, summarising a wealth of data and designed to engage and entertain, not to merely inform.

So while many are growing tired of the infographic, they are probably actually more tired of the more cumbersome or contrived examples of the use of the style – where a so-called infographic is actually little more than a collection of normal graphs with brighter colours and less corporate fonts, that doesn’t actually make the absorption of information any easier at all.

After all, as said before, we’ve been happily taking information on board through infographics for literally centuries, so how could it be a tired format?

I’m fairly certain this assumption is right – I just need to wade through all the articles and information to make sure…

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