Recently, Kissmetrics (which hosts one of my favorite marketing blogs) had a post called “What You Can Learn From These 10 Infographics.” So, here’s what I learned – mostly, I don’t like Infographics and they are multiplying at a rapid pace. Hope I don’t sound like too much of a wet blanket and grumpy academic. Kissmetrics tells us that although infographics have been around for decades (think about graphic representations of data you’ve seen in printed brochures), they have become the go-to tool of choice on the web. There are lots of good reasons why people are interested in infographics:
- Rich visuals are helpful in web marketing and search engine optimization – they showcase expertise, they are shareable and they can be linked to. Oh, and sometimes they go viral!
- They can be more engaging and content marketing is all about engaging your audience
- There’s so much data bombarding people today that they welcome something that makes data easier to understand
But, after viewing several hundred infographics over the last six months, I’ve come to a different conclusion – most Infographics give me a headache. So, here’s my list of reasons why:
- Data Confusion. The point of an infographic is to help us “see” data more clearly. Many infographics are stuffed full of data, but they don’t actually help us see what the data mean. Instead, they take a lot of time to interpret. So, kudos to Time Inc. for a great infographic showing wear Americans live – you should definitely check out the visual at this link TIME INFOGRAPHIC
- Data Inundation. My theory is that someone said, “Let’s stop making PowerPoint slide decks. Instead, let’s take 10 slides and smash them into one giant slide.” I actually like the content, look and feel of this St. Paddy’s Day infographic on Visual.ly. The graphics are easy to interpret – you can see the data quickly. But, they’ve jammed about 10 data tables into one graphic. I lost the point about halfway through. Maybe I am just lazy. But, I need my data chunked out in smaller bits.
- Impossible to print or reuse. When I do find data I love and key points I want to make later in my classes and presentations, I can’t actually leverage the materials. These graphics are intended for the web. So, they are not traditional print sizes. And, because they are so visually dense, the file size is huge. Don’t believe me, just try it for yourself
- The data gets dated. Because infographics are meant to be shared via the web, they tend to stay around for a long time. Even in the Kissmetrics post, they highlight two infographics where the data is stale. Even so, this infographic about the progress of BP relief well drilling in 2010 is cool to look at and pretty easy to interpret.
But, here’s the real challenge. As a quantitative marketer, I love data. I desperately want to see people taking data and making easier for others to visualize. So, I really, really want to like Infographics. But alas, I keep finding myself disappointed. I am coming to believe that it might just take video to help us visualize data, especially big data. So, here’s my list of great videos that really helped me visualize data:
- Jer Thorpe talking about his experiments with data visualization and a new software he created to analyze twitter feeds based on NY Times stories – It’s a TED talks
- Visual.ly has an area where you can see the interactive timeline of how rumors spread – I like the one about the London Zoo
- Here’s another TED Talks where Drew Berry has found a way to visualize the molecular process of DNA replication. I am not even a biologist and I was captivated.
Granted, these videos take more time. But personally, I find them very engaging! Oh and I did truly appreciate this infographic one of our Kelley marketing students created last fall. I think it gets the point across nicely.
So, what are your favorite infographics? What are you doing to help others see your data more clearly?