Recently I rediscovered an old entry in Alberto Cairo’s blog titled “Reclaiming the word “Infographics””. It resonates strongly with my own thoughts on the matter. I have been creating infographics for 25 years now, and the word has always meant to me a blend of information, design and illustration, in which the graphic part’s (the design and the illustration) mission is to convey the information in a more illuminating and revealing way than words alone could accomplish. It is fundamentally a branch of journalism. The work that The New York Times, National Geographic, or Scientific American, among many others, are doing in this respect are prime examples of splendid infographics.
In the last few years “the term “infographics” has been hijacked”, as Cairo puts it. Instead of denoting a branch of journalism, the word is now used more and more often to refer to graphic displays that serve not journalism, but marketing. These “infographics” are often created with the (foolish) declared goal of becoming “viral” online, and, as a rule, the images are used not to convey information, but to decorate. They use graphic resources typical of the more serious, journalistic infographics, such as charts, arrows, and maps, to decorate information often chosen randomly with the only purpose to justify the presence of that very chart, arrow, or map.
You can find online thousands of “infographic elements” packs, collections of predesigned “infographic looking” graphic elements, that allow you to put together an “infographic” with minimal effort. You can (perhaps) find some information later to squeeze into your graphic. This is, almost exactly, the opposite of what I call an infographic. They represent a complete trivialization of the exacting and fascinating craft I have been practicing for many years.
Excellent posting Juan. Something that has been irking and annoying me for some time now but you (and Alberto) have beaten me to it by putting your views down in blogs. I have also been producing infographics for 25 years plus and it’s time we reclaimed the word infographics for what they are and made the rest of the media understand.
Very good article, Juan! I very much agree with differentiate one from the other. I collaborate with Visual.ly making those misnamed infographics and really it’s a difference. The other kind of graphics explain why this or that product or company in good, nothing more. Are actually more marketing than anything else. There is even some books that teachs you how to do these, like “The power of infographics” by Smiciklas.
The aptly named infografias have a whole know-how behind. Those are the ones I like to do, which by its content is always learns something and that challenge every time.
I agree fully and find this trend all-too disturbing. But to me, as a trained infographer and map maker who is increasingly being hired for my journalistic and informational design experience by business folks who need to increase their communicative efficacy, I find it confounding that the marketing and advertising domain doesn’t just get real and act like visual journalists. Like, if you want to be a trusted brand it seems all-too risky to put out faux-chart-map-story propaganda. Considering the ability of the collective internet to fact check and debunk your “infographics” as nothing but shit, why not hire real, evidence-based, non-propagandists to sell your product?
And unfortunately the answer to this is quite obvious: to exist, most businesses must trick and deceive consumers. Because in truth they have no business, being in business. They are just professional tricksters.
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