Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Stephen Few asked for some thoughts about an infographic. Here's what happened

Perhaps you've seen Steve Few's recent post about a flawed infographic by Time magazine. I agree with Steve's opinion, but some of his readers don't. They have a point, I think: My guess is that this graphic was meant to be shared in social media, so it may need some unobtrusive embellishments. I've tried to find the middle ground in the discussion by proposing a new redesign.

Here's a video of my opinions, followed by my version; there's always room for improvement, so please share your suggestions in the comments section:

(UPDATE: After a few hilarious comments, I should explain that what the guy below is holding is a newspaper or a magazine, not a gun, a boomerang, or a Pterodactyl; I'm just not a great artist!)


  1. This is nicer, although I think I'd put the national representatives worldwide line separately at the bottom, as it's the only line that isn't US-specific. I know it's in order of % female representation but to me that data point doesn't work where it is.

    And why is the man on the right holding a boomerang?! ;)

  2. Hahaha, sorry. It also looks like a gun but it's supposed to be a piece of paper. I am just not a great artist!

  3. Alberto, the way you put all the information is awesome. Here's my comment on that blog, what do you think?

    There is no right/wrong solution in this topic. The boss is Human Brain who's begging to find new ways not to engage but to retain and understand data in less than 5 seconds to use it. Vicepresident is audience, and in this case if audience is facebook (or others) people Time's infographic is "ok" (at least the idea. The design, etc is really bad) at the end for that kind of people is all about sharing and reading something cool and "interesting" quickly, whatever. Internet is full of that stuff. If audience is the people who will make a decision ah! I go with Stephen's chart (with some comments from Adil which add value). Finally, if audience is a Business Owner, shareholder, I go with Alberto's Infochart is great too(with some different color combination, I see the whole image as a US Map is that correct?). It's all about creativity and magic to get brain attention, retention, retention, retention...

  4. Alberto - I think this is a great way to pull in the illustrative quality that some people feel this chart needs. I think conceptually, this is fantastic, and shows how to use charts effectively while still being able to add flourish to the overall piece.

    That said, I think that it is somewhat clumsily executed, however. I feel the reddish-orange color is a bit of an odd choice. I am not sure what color I would have gone with, but this seems to kind of hover in the middle between choosing a color.

    When you combine that muddy background with the somewhat washed out blue and orange of the chart itself, you have everything a little bit lost. Nothing pops, nothing grabs your focus.

    I also do not think that the font works well. It anti-aliases somewhat awkwardly, making it a little hard to read.

    To improve, I think that I would prefer to see the background in a light grey, with black text in something more like a Helvetica or similarly simple type, and I would like to see the orange and blue of the chart be significantly more vibrant, to draw the focus there.

    Or possibly go the other way, and make the background more decisively dark - a dark red, a dark blue, a dark grey, etc. There's just too much 'middle' here I think.


  5. Fruitful discussion, as usual. Made me want to try my own version, responding to some of the thoughts and suggestions here.
    Take a look and let me know what you think: http://threestory.com/blog/women-equality-government

  6. I think Alberto's version shows that the job of the designer is not to compromise between clarity and impact, but it is to fuse the demands of both. Often clarity and impact are held up as two opposing goals and the designer has to weigh up how much of one he can afford to sacrifice for the other. I think that is wrong. Our job is to find a solution that incorporates both. We use design to do that.
    I can't see in anyway that Time sacrificed clarity to improve impact. The graphic has no impact at all. It's made of clip art and ugly charts. There was no pay off. The strongest elements are the statistics, even though they are hidden by the poor design. But you can find them, just, and they are powerful numbers, and that's why the graphic probably gets forwarded.
    I've noticed that the UN and other big agencies are producing more and more post-card sized graphics for easy sharing. Sometimes they are good, often they are poor. But what I've seen is that as long as the data presented is interesting, they will get relatively high forwarding rates. They have good data and that's what counts.
    I don't think the 'reading public' is used to consistently seeing well designed infographics. That's because there are too many bad graphics out there, setting expectations low. But also part of the problem is that the debate about graphics is too narrow (too many anti-pie rants!).
    So Alberto, how do we reach out better to non-graphics people? I think we need to.

  7. A good post Alberto and a very useful video.

    I agree. Stephen's re-make is a much better way to show the data correctly and effectively.

    Adding graphical 'cues' or context, are also useful elements in bringing it all together and giving it a quality that some people feel charts need to reach bigger audiences

    I also think you are correct in that many newsrooms now lack the expertise that’s required to edit, and indeed, sometimes, to produce graphics correctly and effectively.

    Too much emphasis is now being placed on a 'grabby' visual without much thought as to the content, integrity or purpose of the graphic.

  8. Very interesting. I would change the red color to a lighter hue, or a median blue. Anything that is easier on the eyes. I find the category text exceedingly hard to read because of the low contrast with the background. Pure white would be better. Otherwise, it's a clever modification of Stephen's graphic for the social media crowd.

  9. Really good example about something nice but innefective to show data. I really like your redesign. As usual, your works have a great "midpoint" between both worlds.

  10. Leaving the infographic behind, I would question the basic editorial premise--- that the under-representation of women in government shows that we need Women's Equality Day. The day is simply a commemoration of a historic event. What we need is a feminist revolution. Would Time suggest that appalling statistics regarding African-Americans show that we need MLK Day? OK, maybe they would.

  11. Both yours and Stephen's versions are unquestionably more successful in communicating the information in a way that's useful, and while I can appreciate what you've tried to accomplish with your redesign, I have to agree with Jamie's take on the color palate. I feel that use of the relatively high impact orange as a background is inappropriate and distracts the eye from the area that matters most (i.e. the data). Adding "visual interest" in the form of graphics that don't communicate meaningful data can only be done if it doesn't detract or distract from the data being communicated.