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Info- or Infaux- graphics:
How to spot a knockoff
Published by Abby Spung, October 16th, 2014
Abby SpungInfographic: an invented term that smashes together the words information and graphic that is thrown about these days like overused slang.
 
Incidentally, my computer is red lining this word, because even it doesn’t identify it as a real word in our language.
 
Nonetheless, everybody seems to want an infographic, whether they need one or not.  They are so popular that knockoffs have become rampant, diluting the value and reputation of this visual tool – which makes the need to better define them all the more important.
 

Defining an Infographic

The meaning of the word is a bit elusive. After all, it’s natural to treat it like a compound word whereby you combine the meaning of two separate words to arrive at a new meaning, like campground (a ground or area in which you camp) or blackboard (a board or surface that is black). Hence, it seems the definition would be information that is expressed graphically. But wait, isn’t that what graphic design is—communicating information using a strategic collective and application of graphical elements such as type, color, image, and so on? Well yes. So what’s an infographic then?
 
Perhaps it would be best to suggest to you that infographic is a noun, a thing whose purpose is data visualization—communicating complex information in a readily digestible way. The operative word here being readily. We all know people process visual information or images quicker than words. If that wasn’t the case, the cliché “a picture is worth a thousand words” would have never caught on. The point at which the picture takes too much effort to process, or understand, is when it’s surpassed its value as a visual aid.
 

Why Defining Infographics Matters

Clarifying what infographics, or data visualizations, are accomplishes two things.
  1. It helps those of you who, as of the last decade, have been repeatedly asking for an infographic from your creative team, art department or resident graphic guru understand what one is and decide if you really need one.
  2. It offers some insight and reassurance to those of you who often find yourself cocking your head and furrowing a brow while trying to decode what looks like a cross between the women’s restroom sign and the nutritional panel of a cereal box—which, by the way, is an infographic.
Why do I care? I believe you should get what you ask for, understand what you’re looking at, and be able to appreciate the intellectual effort and creative discipline it takes to turn an abundance of typically boring statistical data into a succinct, stealthy and very valuable visual.  When done correctly, infographics are beautiful components and tools for reaching your audience, and delivering your value proposition.
 
Is your infographic providing clarity or adding noise? Asking yourself these questions is a good way to find out.
  1. Does it communicate complex data in a simple and easy-to-read manner?
  2. Is it primarily graphical / visual or are you doing more reading? (Bar and pie charts don’t count.)
  3. Is the information of value to your intended audience – does it captivate them?
  4. Is the imagery, color, and treatment relative to your message or brand?
 
Here are three articles that I like and find to be additionally insightful on this highly overused term and its application that you may also enjoy.
 
 
What has your experience with infographics been like? Add your comments below or contact Abby Spung to discuss infographics further.
 
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