Infographics – the Long and the Short of It – Defining the [infographic]

I moderated a panel at the Social Media Club in Austin to discuss infographics. You know those little pictograms or things you either love or hate. The USA Today chart that looks like a rain cloud or the really really long image and numbers about how awesome facebook is. First a thanks to Kat Mandelstein, the chair of #smca for asking me to be a part of this lively discussion. And to Joey McGirr for tagging me in a photo even though I wasn’t in the photo. And thanks to the panel:   StatesmanGrafix  ekmedia  the_infographic  Fishco_Studios all worthy folks to follow.

Infographics, Love Them Or Hate Them, #smca

So let’s cut to the chase here. Aside from being passionate about infographics and the efficient communication of information, I learned a few things that we should all think about.

1. Long or Short?
The form should follow the function. If the data supports a long story then perhaps the infographic can unravel the data in a long-form infographic. But for the most part, short is sweet. As screens compress again in the form of phones and tablets, the efficient use of screen space will be more critical. Perhaps interactive graphics can provide layering rather than scrolling.

2. Do we need more names for types of infographics? (data visualization, fancy chart, diagram)
There are definitely a number of genres of infographic. And there was a bit of a dispute over naming them different things. Even the name info-graphic is an abbreviation for Information Graphic. So the criteria should be the compression of data and images to convey a concept or relationship.

3. Infographics really start with the data.
The visualization is what the artist brings to the table to create an infographic-win that either succeeds with a memorable combination of color, words, numbers, and images, or an infographic-fail that is merely gumming up the internet with useless pictures that have little or no relevance to the ideas being presented.

4. Mobile could be the killer app that kills the long-form infographic forever.
No one is going to scroll down ten screens on their smart phone to read your infographic. No matter how smart the phone, or the infographic, or the person hoping to glean a bit of useful information.

So is the current rage towards ever-lengthening infographics going to end? Let’s hope so. But in the mean time let’s agree that if the image and the data don’t fit together, perhaps you’re better off going with a pretty chart from Excel rather than trying to fashion an infographic.

I’ve captured some of the best and worst infographics on my pinterest page: jmacofearth on pinterest

This post continues here: Damn, We Should Do An Infographic on That; Charts Trying to Be More and Do More?

UPDATE: The panel on infographics by Social Media Club is now up on Storify with some highlights, and the entire video is available on YouTube:

@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)
permalink: http://uber.la/2012/02/infographics/

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. You’re welcome (I felt you were there – in the picture – in spirit). At least two of the panelists were hanging on your every word. =)

  2. You’re welcome (I felt you were there – in the picture – in spirit). At least two of the panelists were hanging on your every word. =)

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