Infographics Schminfographics

Now, hold back your rage a minute, comrades in marketing, because we’re going to say two things in the next sentence that might upset you. We don’t like portmanteaus* and we’re bored of infographics.

The whole infographics thing was undoubtedly born from fine intentions. But we’re tired of them and think there are some important reasons behind this cynicism. The problem is that they’ve become shorthand for information – to get all semioticsy about it, they connote knowledge but don’t always denote it. Sometimes they look a bit like medieval astrological charts. They gain their power from the fact they are confusing, not because of the information they contain.

Left Vs Right (

We realise that McCandless et al meant to achieve exactly the opposite and in many cases they have, but ‘infographics’ have become a trend, not a practice. They have a requisite look and feel, they have a chummy tone that could be employed to make the notoriously dark art of statistics appear more reliable than it is. They’ve been presented to us as a new thing – but the idea of effectively sharing information with people is not new at all, as a recent post on the Creative Review highlighted when it reproduced a number of London Transport posters from an exhibition at the Transport Museum.

London Transport Museum

‘Infographics’ is a portmanteau that should never have been born. It allows us to avoid the issue at hand, it leads to questions like “can we use infographics here?” in order to make things look slick and cool when the question should just be “how do we represent this information well?” The London Transport posters were able to do this long before anyone even whispered infographics. And good designers will be doing it long after. There is a danger that people will be so distracted by the novelty of it that those who need to present information will simply turn it into information that looks a certain way instead of actually thinking about how it should best be communicated.

*When two words are shoved together to make a new word. Like Brangelina or Mompreneurs.


  1. And while you’re on the subject of form over function… or cleverness for the sake of it … i’ve been listening to something much less highbrow – Radio 2 in the AM. Every day, at about the time I get back in the car after the second child has been dropped off, I hear the head to head headlines. Now… some of the stories are a tickle… no doubt the intention – good news to get the day off on the right note… but most of the time they get completely lost in alliteration and rhyme. After my ears have decoded (good semiotic word) or rather waded through the language i generally can’t tell what the story was about. so what started as a good thing has become too much of good thing… much like infographics

  2. I agree Bronwen (this is Sam). I think this is problem is pretty endemic particularly in marketing. How many adverts do you see that seem to give you information about a product but actually tell you very little, most beauty product adverts for instance.

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