Topic Models That Are Tough for Infographics


If you’ve been paying attention to our posts, or guest posts on other sites, or reviews, what’s the thing we tend to critique the most about infographics? (I know, we critique a lot. That’s why I said the most.)

It starts with “d” and ends with “ata viz.”

(It’s data viz.)

More specifically, we often end up commenting on a lack of data viz in the majority of infographics out there. While there are many components to a great infographic (see 8 Factors of a Good Infographic), data viz is number one on the list for a reason. Without visualized information, users are left with either a lot of text, a lot of icons, or both. And while these can be fun to look at and packed with useful information, they aren’t as efficient or as… awesome as a true infographic.

That said, not every idea that passes through the mind has the type of data that can be converted into charts, graphs, etc. Here are two general ideas we see a lot. They usually need some tweaking in order to earn the designation of “infographic.” Please note that:

1) This is definitely not exhaustive of difficult-to-visualize topics, and

2) These comments are generalizations. It is not to say that you can’t make a great infographic using these models. It’s mostly to say that we see a lot of these done poorly.

A History of…

We all know the timeline. It’s a concise and chronologically sensible way of displaying the evolution of something, from French cooking to paleontology to, say, infographics. And I won’t argue that it isn’t relevant or interesting, because that wouldn’t be true. A timeline can be an integral part of an infographic, but when it begins to dominate or become the entirety of the graphic, it’s a problem. Unless you get creative with it, timelines typically are comprised of text and maybe some accompanying icons/imagery.

That said, it’s entirely possible to re-imagine the timeline and include primarily visualizable data. “December 1, 2002: 71% of paleontologists eat bologna sandwiches.” (Okay, that’s obviously made up, but bear with me.) With points like that, your timeline can serve dual purpose as a history and a collection of statistical data.

If you do end up wanting to include a “traditional” timeline, don’t let it be the only component of your graphic. Check out this example of making your timeline properly proportional to your data viz.

If you have the opportunity, get creative with the design of the timeline itself. This football infographic made a helmet into a timeline.

# Ways to Do This/Reasons for This/Tips on This/etc. etc. etc.

Once again, this can be a great model for conveying strategies, tips, and ideas. A lot of the time, this is opinion-based information, though. Take, for example, weight loss tips. Everyone’s got an idea about the best way to lose weight, from drinking 20 glasses of water a day to holding your breath while hopping on one foot. Is there going to be a lot of hard data related to these? Not usually. If you can find a stat about the number of Brits who lost weight by chewing bubble gum, good on you! But mostly these structures are used for giving advice.

We’ve also seen this format used for excessive branding, which is another no-no for infographics in general. If you want to enact this format, be sure you’ve got some hard data to back it up, and make it visual! Here’s the wrong way to do it:

If you’ve got a stat or two to back up the opinions provided, you can make this model work. Link us to some good ones!

Also, let us know in the comments about some other models you’ve seen referred to as infographics.

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