|Snark-infused infographic hacked from original work by Zabisco.|
In an effective Infographic virtually every fact or statistic is distilled into a provocative headline presented in an eye-catching and easy to digest form. Little or no reading is necessary to arrive at the intended conclusion. The connection to supporting documentation is generally relegated to unlinked microscopic fonts buried at the bottom of the graphic, severing any need to maintain any pretense that the headline statistic is representative of underlying unlinked and unreadable "source".
Occasionally, someone who actually understands how statistics are manipulated and misused will take the time and effort to do a proper fisking. Last December Megan McArdle took on the Sisyphyean task to end the "Infographic Plague:
"...it's time to get down to a war that really matters: the war on terrible, lying infographics, which have become endemic in the blogosphere, and constantly threaten to break out into epidemic or even pandemic status. The reservoir of this disease of erroneous infographics is internet marketers who don't care whether the information in their graphics is right ... just so long as you link it."
Infographic use is exploding because infographics work. They can be so seductively convincing that it is only when you step back and take look at the distilled message you realize the whole thing is a load of crap.
Greg Voakes has contributed a number of interesting and informative infographics at Donklephant, where I also occasional blog. This post that got my attention. Not only did it remind us that money is the root of all evil, but it convincingly documents the degree to which mere association with disposable income will corrupt your soul.
Joe Camel character with eyes bulging out of it's head and stuck squeezing through the eye of a needle. The headline number and text next to the image would read:
"1,735,252 to 1 - ODDS OF CAMEL GETTING THROUGH EYE OF NEEDLE -
Better odds than a One Percenter going to heaven!"The small print on the bottom of the infographic would of course reference Mark 10:25 as documentary proof of the headline statistic. Very convincing. I don't know how the infographic designer missed it.
Learning from this example how effective the infographic can be at communicating an inane idea, I decided to learn more. What better way to learn, than an infographic about infographics? Sure enough, I found one on a marketing site, promoting it's use in advertising and commerce:
"It’s that old notion that a complex idea can be conveyed with a simple still image. Have you ever completed hours and hours of market research only to find that you now have a 20-page document that could put your client (even on 4 cups of coffee) to sleep? Next time, try out this highly popular design and marketing technique that recently caught my eye: The Infographic. It’s useful for presenting statistical information in a cool and enjoyable way."
Something like the infographic at the top of this post.I am providing this as a public service. Megan McArdles assertion that these are used as nothing more than SEO link bait to drive traffic has absolutely nothing to do with posting this infographic here.