Hello infographic, goodbye pie chart

Posted on May 31, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Much like fashion, website design has trends that come and go. Depending on your age, you might remember the days when websites were reminiscent of the Vegas strip, with all the bells and whistles the designer could cram onto a screen.

bad website

Click on it--the colors scroll!

Thankfully, most of today’s sites are more refined. According to “The State of Web Design Trends,” one of the up and coming trends is infographics. This term is fairly new to me and, as the name implies, refers to a graphic representation of information. If you’re unsure of the benefits of infographics, here is an infographic about infographics:

infographic about infographics

With color, images and a flexibility you just can’t get from Excel, infographics are the charts and graphs of the 21st century. According to marketing professional and blogger Pam Dyer, an infographic is more effective at communication than its predecessors because it translates complex data into an easily understandable format. In her words, “charts and graphs can communicate data, but infographics turn data into information.”

Take Obama’s $787 Billion Economic Stimulus Plan. All politics aside, how many people really understand how that enormous sum of money is broken down? Enter the infographic:

Obama's Economic Stimulus Plan infographic

Click to open the full graphic.

A New York Times article goes a step further, suggesting that infographics have the potential to “prompt visceral comprehension, moments of insight that make viewers want to learn more.” For example, regardless of how you feel about Twitter, this visual representation of how the death of Osama bin Laden spread via Twitter offers an instant appreciation of the power of this medium.

bin Laden death spread viaTwitter

It all started with a single tweet from Keith Urbahn...

Not everyone is on the infographic bandwagon though. Could this trend be another indication of just how lazy we’ve become? One blog suggests this new tool is simply a gimmick that drives website traffic without offering value to readers. This infographic might fall into that category:

coffee infographic

Count me as a passenger on the bandwagon. Like it or not, we’ve become a culture of skimmers. As a communications professional, I have some sadness about this development. As a part-time student, full-time employee, and lifetime consumer, however, I have to resort to skimming just to make it through the day. If you want to get your point across, especially if you are marketing something, then you had better do it in a succinct and appealing manner.

What do you think about infographics? Do you have any favorites to share?


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7 Responses to “Hello infographic, goodbye pie chart”

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Joyce –

I just finished the Visual Information Design course in Late Fall and really enjoyed the course. We reviewed, examined and discussed many different infographics. My favorite throughout the entire semester was: http://www.behance.net/gallery/World-Cup-Prediction-Infographic-%28Wired-UK%29/539254.

This infographic demonstrates the 2010 World Cup Prediction, a somewhat complicated process to verbalize, but visually it makes sense. What do you think?

Great article Joyce!
I think we’re just seeing a re-emergence of an old art form. Cave paintings, Egyptian tomb walls, medieval bibles all contained text and art to communicate.
The re-emergence is now probably do to the fact the software has made it much easier to create art out of data. Pen and ink are a lot harder and expensive to paint with then pixels.
One of the best seminars I’ve attended was by Edward Tufte, he always shows the following info-graphic about Napolean’s march to Moscow (Charles Joseph Minard, 1869) as a masterpiece:


Thanks for the blog post. I’m often challenged to find ways of succinctly expressing large volumes of data and your post encourages me to be more creative with Infographics.

As a former journalist, I, too, am saddened that we’ve become a society of skimmers. But, I have to admit, I find myself doing the same.

Just this morning, I grabbed the paper and skimmed the front page, which I’m doing more and more. Why skim and not read? Well, I wanted to make sure I was aware of the “big” news but didn’t have enough time to actually read any story.

Also, as a former journalist who still really cares about words and how they’re used, I get very frustrated and impatient with poor writing. I often don’t take the time to muddle through a poorly written story.

As for infographics, I’m a passenger on that bus as well. But we’re communicators. Our purpose is to communicate in the most effective way possible. If infographics help us to communicate our ideas effectively, then we need to use them as a tool.


Again, as a teacher, graphic organizers are great for relaying information. I for one want the basics and if I need further information, I can delve. While I think it is how we many compartmentalize and process information, this is not for all. Meeting everyone’s needs and style is difficult.

Thanks for all of the great comments and for sharing some cool infographics.

I think the World Cup and Napolean’s March infographics are great examples of how this type of presentation can intrigue the reader and draw them in to learn more. I don’t think I would take the time to read an article about either subject, but the infographics captured my attention.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Today’s surfeit of 24-hour news cycles, media types and self-publishing “i-reporters” who post every item as valid whether factual or not makes it confusing for the average reader. Most of us find the excess of data makes it difficult to quickly extract and internalize necessary information.

Infographics are a valuable tool to respond to data overload.

Adam Singer on his blog, The Future Buzz, describes infographics as follows http://thefuturebuzz.com/2010/09/20/data-visualization-infographics/
“Data visualization and infographics (related) are powerful ways to communicate data, stats or information that most communications pros never even consider. And yet in a world increasingly saturated with data and information, they are a potent way to tell your story, break through the clutter and even persuade people to action.”

As such, here is a great infographic on today’s trends in Emerging Media in 2011:

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