Infographics are Useful –But They Must Evolve

Infographics. I love them.

Nothing tells a story better than using colorful, easy-to-read illustrations that couple important data points that justify the meaning. In fact, over a year ago, I said that “Infographics are the new white papers. Our media consumption diet has shifted from steaks to shish kabob“.

Infographics are becoming the norm –the medium is at risk to get saturated
Yet lately, I’ve started to see this once early adopter medium get saturated. We’re starting to see infographics for every topic, and I’m getting infographics sent to me as part of press releases, or you can create infographics out of your resume on demand. Heck, there’s even an infographic for infographics on HuffPo and a different one on my friend Scott’s site Laughing Squid. In fact, there are over 570,000 counts of infographic images on Google, and even one Flickr pool has over 5000 pictures.

How else could they evolve?
Well let’s think. As more data emerges, certainly we must continue to make data presentable and consumable, we a mixture of shish kabob (short form content) –and steaks (long form). Well, they could be interactive, so as you click on them, additional information appears and you can dig in to the nested data, see how Newsweek is doing this for data on World’s best countries, or how Forbes is tracking migrations across the United States or how National Geographic layers on infographics on how we’re quickly approaching 7 billion inhabitants on Earth.

I like what Joe Chernov at Eloqua did, I think he’s doing some of the most interesting stuff in this space when it comes to marketing in new mediums, he created a Probook that has elements of stories, data, graphics, in a deeper format. As one of our clients (disclosure), I worked on this project with Joe and Jess3, who popularized this medium, so much so, that many other firms are emulating Jess3. I look forward to seeing how they will continue to push the medium forward.

If you see some interesting evolutions of infographics (3D, interactive, digital books, video) please leave a comment and shout out these new projects, let’s give them some visibility.

Infographics are Useful –But They Must Evolve.

  • http://twitter.com/jchernov Joe Chernov

    Great post — and metaphor — Jeremiah.
    Thanks for the shout out and kind words. I agree 100% that infographics, in
    their current form, are in mid-shark-jumping-air.  You asked me a very
    important question once: What does all of this “stuff” roll up to …
    what’s the common theme, what’s the larger objective?

    I think about that all the time now. What I would like to see is a movement
    from IBU — interesting but useless — infographics, and toward using the
    medium as a tool. As much as I love The Content Grid v2
    (http://media.eloqua.com/images/The-Content-Grid-v2.jpg) because aspires to
    give marketers an actual framework or content marketing, it stops short being
    truly remarkable. What it should do is allow viewers to interact with it. To
    move the spheres from one column to the next. To add content types, cull
    distribution channels, add KPIs. THAT would be an evolution not only of content
    marketing, but of the infographic medium, itself. The issue came down to timing
    and cost. But the dream and vision are there. Thanks for pushing for more. Good
    is the enemy of great.

     

    Your friend
    and fan,

    Joe

  • Hamid Ghanadan

    Good article. Seems like with the explosion of information, one would expect info graphics to become a more important aspect of communication. I believe more designers should go back to the fundamentals of information design a la Edward Tufte. His “visual Display of Quantitative Information” is the most authoritative book on the topic.

  • http://visualoop.tumblr.com/ TSSVeloso

    Jeremia, great post, you said it all. I run Visual Loop, and we add at least 25 new infographics everyday (!) – we have almost 13.000 there, at this time. And, although we post from all over the world – not only English-based -, and despite the fact that we don’t do “critics”, the truth is that, as far as innovation in this field goes, I believe we’ll be seeing some great developmants in the future nearby.

    Because nothing drives evolution as much as popularity.

    Keep up the great work!

    Best,

    @TSSVeloso / @visualoop

  • http://twitter.com/dereckbreuning Dereck Breuning

    Great post. I like the idea of infographic books but I think an infographic should be a one-page (maybe a big one at that) and needs to present the info at a glance. As for the evolutions of infographics I love the ‘Did You Know’ video which is a video infographic and is done VERY WELL. Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cL9Wu2kWwSY It's also a bit old and some updates were done but still. Great video!

  • http://twitter.com/noyesjesse Jesse Noyes

    Fun post, Jeremiah.

    I think it’s interesting that news outlets are leading the way in developing interactive infographics. I think the reason behind this is simple: The job of a journalist is to tackle large masses of information and uncover the underlying narrative beneath all the data. Infographics not only help readers make sense of the data, it also helps the journalist understand it. With so much information to cut through (obscure financial statements, political filings, websites with vast data stored, etc.), having a framework where you can drag and sort through the information can help writers and reporters wrap their head around the information. In that way, I see infographics serving a two-way funcationality: clarifying data for the creator first and then presenting that clear vision to the reader next.

    Thanks for the great post,

    Jesse

  • http://20andengaged.com Briana Myricks

    I think an infographic book is going to be interesting (downloaded it) but could pose the risk of information overload. I already feel my brain pulsating when I look at a well researched infographic, as it’s supposed to make learning a bit more interesting. Let’s just hope people stop making infographics for dumb things they could’ve put in bullet form.

  • http://jedsundwall.com/ Jed Sundwall

    I agree with @182722539d841ce362244f41a7dbbc57:disqus . Infographics would be better off if their creators read Tufte, but I also highly recommend “Now You See It” by Stephen Few and “Visual Language for Designers” by Connie Malamed.

  • http://twitter.com/Steveology Steve Farnsworth

    I am constantly surprised at the reams of unusable meaningless data displayed in what are cheerfully labeled “infographics”. The trend is to merely illustrate data not elucidate it. A good infographic goes deeper to allow the view to grasp the implications of big or complex data. A cognitively ergonomic visual analysis if you will.

  • http://www.jasonmkey.com Jason mKey

    I think evolve isn’t the best word here. Instead I would say they need to improve. Higher quality, more reputable data and top notch visual design. 

    Kissmetrics and SocialFresh are two companies that are leading the way. 

  • Sajid

    Briana, which book are you referring here? Can you please share the name?

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  • http://www.commun.it SharelOmer

    Gr8 stuff..Row data is the means, to a goal to pass a message…Infographics is a more colorful way to show row data… maybe there should be 3 major points and when you interact with them the Infographics behind it is shown..(Flash)

    When mail interactions will support non static content (an dynamic controle) then it may be that Infographics like social media status will turn into an interactive dialog between the botton line message and the row data behind it…

    Thanks for sharing.. always amazing to read your blog.
    Sharel 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeremiah-Owyang/503291522 Jeremiah Owyang

    Great example!

  • Kevin Eves

    Can you elaborate on what makes this extraordinary? 

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  • TinyT

    I worked with the guys from KillerInfographics on a project, and it turned out really cool. They gave me lots of options on the direction I could take to visualize my data. Love me some infographics!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/sogundiranmartin Sayo Ogundiran-Martin

    Totally agree…I think infographics will need to become a bit more interactive in order to really become appealing to the mainstream.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sogundiranmartin Sayo Ogundiran-Martin

    Totally agree…I think infographics will need to become a bit more interactive in order to really become appealing to the mainstream.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sogundiranmartin Sayo Ogundiran-Martin

    Totally agree…I think infographics will need to become a bit more interactive in order to really become appealing to the mainstream.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sogundiranmartin Sayo Ogundiran-Martin

    Totally agree…I think infographics will need to become a bit more interactive in order to really become appealing to the mainstream.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sogundiranmartin Sayo Ogundiran-Martin

    Totally agree…I think infographics will need to become a bit more interactive in order to really become appealing to the mainstream.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sogundiranmartin Sayo Ogundiran-Martin

    Totally agree…I think infographics will need to become a bit more interactive in order to really become appealing to the mainstream.

  • http://investinsocial.com Jason Keath

    Not sure I see such a need for infographics to drastically evolve. Just because we see more infographics does not mean they need to become something different all of a sudden. Unless we are seeing data that shows they are becoming less effective. 

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  • http://twitter.com/davegray Dave Gray

    I hope infographics evolve, but in addition I hope they get better. Most of what I’ve seen lately seems to follow Sturgeon’s Law: “90% of everything is crap.” Pushing the envelope is great, but I hope people start by pushing the quality envelope, not the technology envelope. You can’t save a bad infographic by making it 3D or interactive. Most probably you will only make it worse.

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