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.