7 Infographic Topics You Should Avoid

by 2 04/02/2013

Making infographics is a fine art.

Done correctly, they communicate nuanced and complicated ideas in an easy-to-understand format. But as simplistic as infographics appear, they’re actually very complex.

Good infographic design is more than just clean layout, eye-catching colors, and good font choice. It’s also about the information itself.

Infographics work best when they are used to:

  • Compare data
  • Show relationships
  • Track changes
  • Clearly state definite figures

If this is the kind of information you have – great!  Create an infographic.

If you’re trying to share other kinds of topics you’ll need to be more careful.

Steer clear of these seven topics.

Qualitative data

Research data is broadly referred to as either quantitative or qualitative.

Quantitative data relates to concrete, measurable specifics, like a newspaper’s circulation statistics, the number of people buying airplane tickets, or the amount of carbon dioxide released by a new model of car.

If you’re dealing with simple quantitative information, an infographic is a great choice.

But that’s not always the case with qualitative information.

Qualitative data relates to more nebulous information that can’t really be measured. For example, people’s feelings regarding the quality of a newspaper can be represented on a scale from 1 – 10, but there is no universal standard of “very satisfied.”

Since infographics work best when they’re used to express concrete, measurable, quantitative data, trying to force qualitative data regarding preferences, emotions, and aesthetic choices can create a muddled infographic that’s hard to understand.

Sure, there are exceptions.  If an industry has it’s own widely accepted measurements and guidelines, you might be able to share information in an infographic.

Take, for example, an infographic displaying wine and cheese pairings. Although these pairings might be more qualitative, they could do well as an infographic. There’s already a general understanding of what wines go with what cheeses.

Here’s another example of an infographic that just misses the mark:

My Thoughts:

Men and woman are different? Maybe, but there are too many exceptions. And because this infographic provides only qualitative data, I’m still not convinced.

Any simple subject that can be better expressed in another form

Let’s be honest. A suggestion to keep the staff kitchen clean doesn’t require an infographic. You’re simply making a statement that people should pay attention to.

If your topic doesn’t make a comparison or present detailed information, make a poster, not an infographic.

My Thoughts:

Just reading this infographic is more work than I would want to do. And from a design perspective, it’s a disaster. How many fonts do we need to distract us from our household chores.

To be honest, this topic would be better represented as a clearly defined chart.

Simple procedures

Similar to the above point, step-by-step instructions don’t need a high-production infographic. A simple illustrated sign could do the job.

Save infographics for projects that share research and measurements.

As an example, if you want to show what percentage of people wash their hands before preparing food within a larger population, an infographic would be appropriate.

If you want to demonstrate good hand-washing techniques, an infographic isn’t unnecessary.

wash-your-hands-infographic

My Thought:

Sadly, this type of infographic may be needed for businesses to meet FDA standards, but it’s not going to set the Internet world on fire.

Do you really need to break a simple task into six separate and distinct steps? (And, yes, this is a government program using valuable dollars to do just that.)

Complex procedures

Poor infographic design leads to poor understanding, which can be a serious problem if you’re trying to share important information quickly.

Never create an infographic illustrating evacuation procedures, emergency response, or any similar topics.

The chance for leaving something out is too great, and it’s too easy to create a poor infographic that won’t be helpful when the situation calls for quick, decisive action.

ontario-driving-licence-infographic

My Thoughts:

Do you know what this infographic is really telling me? That I won’t be getting my license to drive in Ontario. The process it lays out is so complicated, I don’t want to try to figure it out.

Of course, that may be their point. It’s a great way to keep bad drivers off the roads.

Promotional material

An infographic is not the best medium for promoting a new product or making an important announcement.

If you want to let people know that your company is hiring or that you’re offering a great new service, a more conventional marketing approach is appropriate.

Never try to force your message into an infographic just because the format is currently popular.

My Thoughts:

Hey, I get it. Infographics are a big part of promotion in today’s world. But you also have to take the time to make the infographic more than just an advertisement for your services. No one is passing this infographic around, well, except for Flight Centre.

What’s been done before

Web standards still apply to infographics. If you’ve shared information in another infographic, don’t repeat it unless a significant change has taken place that makes the data inaccurate.

Better yet, go back and update your previous infographic.

Content should be kept fresh, not simply restated in a new way.

My Thoughts:

Another infographic about social media sites? Yawn.

Social media infographics are important —  just not important enough to battle the 4,390,000 search results that come up when you search Google for “social media infographic.” Enough is enough! Let’s look for something new to say.

Misplaced humor

Humor isn’t so much a topic as it is a method for discussing a topic.  Even more to the point, humor is hard to communicate and is nearly impossible to capture in writing (or an infographic).

If you try to wedge humor into your infographic in the hopes that it will appeal more to people, you’ll probably end up achieving the very opposite.

An infographic that has solid information, clear layout, and good design choices will be engaging all on its own.

My Thoughts:

This infographic is disturbing and a mildly humorous. But using dark humor can backfire and cause negative publicity.

Be careful that your infographic doesn’t associate your company with a subject that most of us consider taboo, such as cannibalism.

Bottom line

Infographics are a great way to engage readers, but you need to remember that they’re the vehicle, not the destination. If you have concrete, useful information that can be shared visually, by all means, make an infographic.

But otherwise, look for another vehicle.

Have you seen some infographic disasters or big wins? What makes them work for you?

About 

Shell Harris is the co-found or Big Oak Studios, an SEO company located in Richmond, VA. He is a big fan of infographics and has created a site showcasing the best and more interesting infographics at BestInfographics.co. He has also been known to read top 10 lists for hours at Toptenz.net.

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2 COMMENTS

Anna Kitowska

Great stuff guys, infographics are amazing but some people should have some limit on fonts and on duplicating topics that have been covered waay to many times.
One thing, though – below the men vs women example you wrote:
“And because this infographic provides only quantitative data, I’m still not convinced.” – didn’t you mean qualitative?

April 15, 2013 Reply


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