The backlash is burbling against infographics. For the last couple of years, these visual depictions of information have become more and more frequently used on the web. Seems you can hardly find a news release, a website, blog, tumblr, or whatever without seeing piles of infographics.

Sites such as Hubspot or Social Media Today have made near-constant use of them to illustrate various stories — or to tell the stories .

And that’s perhaps where the backlash begins. Katie Paine has identified bad infographics as her “Measurement Menace of the Month”, calling them “the Kardashians of measurement.” My friend Doug Haslam has created a Pinterest board called “Infographic Crimes Against Humanity” (and, to his chagrin, seen people re-pin the “crimes” as great infographics).

I think what’s happening here is a cycle of usage that I’ve seen happen a number of times in my time as a computer user / online denizen.

The cycle goes like this:

  • A tool or communications medium is introduced. It’s expensive and/or difficult to do. (Think traditional page layout in the 1990s, early illustration programs, making presentations using transparencies or actual slides, word processing in the 70s, hardcoding HTML…or creating infographics)
    Implication: only specialists create using the tool. 
  • Innovation and technology make the tool less expensive and easier to use.
    Implication: a small group of people start “playing” with the tool.  
  • Some early adopters use the tool with great success, touting the “HEY! I DID IT ALL BY MYSELF!”
    Implication: people think “If that shmuck can _____, I can!” 
  • Everybody jumps on the tool.
    Implication: some truly heinous things are created. 
Heinous newsletter

Or:

  • Backlash.

See:


When it comes to infographics, the current darling, it would be useful to remember that there’s a reason great infographics are great — it’s because skill and thought are put into their creation. Tools like Visual.ly don’t do the hard work of thinking through the information, any more than Pagemaker or Printmaster actually DID the design work, or Geocities or FrontPage created beautiful graphics.

I’m not against infographics. I love them. As long as they’re good. If they aren’t? Don’t use ‘em. If you can’t make good ones — either learn how, or pay someone who can. BREAK THE CYCLE!

 

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