Showing Not Telling

The purpose of this blog is to inspire visual thinking among BNA staff.

My goal is to contribute to recent efforts to enhance BNA’s visual presence and assist BNA staff in keeping up with changes in our industry. This blog presents examples of how information is displayed visually by BNA and by other publishers. My desire is to inform and assist editors and reporters to explore the possibilities of incorporating visual communication in their analysis and publications.

Info-Graphics (information graphics), are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge that present complex information quickly and clearly. The purpose of incorporating Info-graphics is to enable our clients to gauge the meaning and significance of complex information at a glance.

I invite you to drop in here from time to time to see what is happening. I look forward to your suggestions, comments, and contributions.

— Cordelia Gaffney, Manager, BNA Graphics

Reality Inverted

Reuters graph implies the opposite of what’s really happening

Graphics — especially simple graphics— should take into account reader’s expectations, not require careful study to correctly interpret their meaning. This Reuters graph inverts the vertical axis, creating the impression that deaths went down when in fact deaths went up. This graph runs counter to a well established convention that y-values increase from the bottom to the top of a graph. Breaking convention produces a graph that seriously misleads. A redrawn version of the graph instantly delivers the correct impression.

florida gun deaths    florida gun deaths-2

UK’s Daily Mirror Blogs Infographics

December 27, 2013 Leave a comment

Ampp3d — launched in November — makes “journalism more accessible through data visualisations.”

The Ampp3d  blog  focuses on the Daily Mirror’s “charts, graphs, facts, figures and … infographics” by collecting and presenting in one place the data visualizations published in the Mirror. Ammp3d demonstrates that infographics do not need to be elaborate to add impact to a story and satisfy readers. It is one of many examples of journalists using graphics to appeal to younger audiences (and help with the ever-important subscriber figures).

Mirror-Tax graph

Here’s everything you need to know about Beyoncé, in numbers.

Overstacking Bars

Mint goes too far with a stacked column chart

Mint-IncomeDistributionStackBar

This stacked column chart is certainly pretty, but falls down on usability. It does not make it easy to compare income levels across states. Reading across the bottom it works for the lowest income group and reading across the top it works for the highest. For the five groups in between it does not work at all because there is no common point of reference. It is very difficult to compare an inner bar to any other inner bar.

This infographic would be less pretty, but far more useful if each group was displayed in its own row with a common zero line. Then the eye could easily scan across to spot the highs and lows.

The lesson is that a stacked column or bar chart can be useful at times, but only when a small number of comparisons are made or when the differences among the bars is very evident. Otherwise, don’t do it!

Cognitive Prosthetics

October 18, 2013 1 comment

1861, with the Union crumbling, President Lincoln studied an infographic

“Infographics are clearly having a cultural moment. They have become pervasive in newspapers, magazines, blog posts, and viral tweets; they appear on television and in advertising, in political campaigns and at art openings. As a Google search term, “infographic” has increased nearly twenty-fold in the last five years. Yet infographics have been popular, in one form or another, for centuries. The source of their power isn’t computers or the Internet, but the brain’s natural visual intelligence.”

Coast_Survey_Slave_Map

Categories: Inspiration Tags:

The Best American Infographics 2013

Book highlights the finest infographics from the past year.

Displays an incredible variety of high-quality graphics ranging from highly technical to whimsical. The book demonstrates many styles and many ways to visually communicate data and ideas. An invaluable source of inspiration.

bestamericaninfographics bestamericaninfographics4

Pie Chart Phobia?

GoodReader Avoids Pie, But Does This Serve the Reader?

This overly elaborate infographic presents the same information as a classic pie chart or even a table. Does it do it better? I think not.

Badbook

It could be that the publication thinks a classic pie or table does not match the image they want to present. Unfortunately, this chaotic presentation makes it much harder for the reader to make sense of the information.

Either a pie or a table sorted by percentage would quickly communicate the top reasons for quitting. This presentation leaves the reader hunting for key information. Why this jumbled spatial arrangement?

The leading factor is labeled in slightly larger type and bolded, but the significance is lost in a sea of bad typography. No typographic hierarchy is maintained in the rest of the labels. Why so many crummy fonts?

Say, what makes you stop reading an infographic?

Designers Outraged at US Gov Spys

PRISM PowerPoints Not So Hot

The revelation that the U.S. Government is spying on the Internet outraged pundits, politicians and rights advocates. After the Washington Post published the slides the design community was outraged too. I think the information content of the slides is actually not so terrible. The problem is the hideously ugly artwork. The design skills of whoever created these slides is appallingly low. Poor presentation detracts from the message so much that it slows comprehension. This is a great illustration of why design skill is an important part of effective communication.

 

Dreadful spy-PRISM deck sets new record for most header logos — Edward Tufte

 

prism-slide-5