After reading three articles by Edward Tufte, I summarised some basic principles to form the basis of my explorations and use them to evaluate the infographics I found.
According to Tufte (1983), graphical excellence happens when graphics:
- show data
- make viewers think about content not presentation/design
- avoid the distortion of data
- present many numbers in a small space
- make large data sets coherent
- encourage the eye to compare different pieces of data
- reveal data on different levels - from broad to fine
- have a clear purpose: descriptive/explorative/decorative/tabulative
- be closely correlated with statistical and verbal descriptions of data set
- the representation of numbers as physically measured on the surface of the graphic itself, should be directly proportional to the numerical quantities represented
- clear, detailed and thorough labeling should be used to defeat graphical distortion and ambiguity. Write out explanations of the data on the graphic itself. Label important events in the data
- show data variation, not design variation
- in time-series displays of money, deflated and standardized units of monetary measurement are nearly always better than nominal units
- the number of information-carrying (variable) dimensions depicted should not exceed the number of dimensions in the data
- graphics must not quote data out of context
I love this Pulp Fiction infographic. It reminds me of the story I heard about a projectionist who re-edited the original film when it arrived to be screened at the cinema because they thought it had got messed up! I am not sure if that is a true story or not but Pulp Fiction was the first film I recall being told in a non-linear way. I love how the space-time sequence of the original has been reduced to a linear, chronological pattern - which of course all non-linear narratives can.
I like the simplicity of presentation of the complex task and believe this to be successful infographic according to Tufte who suggests that graphical excellence makes make “large data sets coherent” (Graphical Excellence, 1983). It has a “clear purpose” and whilst it is well presented, certainly makes the viewer think about the content not presentation or design (Graphical Excellence, 1983).
Equally, Smith has used “detailed and thorough labeling” - speech bubbles show important and well-known quotes, colours depict different character’s paths, he has labelled “important events in the data” with simple graphics to illustrate them because “words and pictures beling together” (Tufte, 1990); Smith also has a legend, providing clear and simple “explanations of the data on the graphic itself”.
This next graphic is interesting and creative in its presentation of data and appears on a page called Infographics vs. Infocrapics: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly (SEO.com).
Compare this then, using the same principles, to the following graphic, which appears on the Terrible Infographics Tumblr. The site claims that this graphic appeared in Newsweek with the caption “The majority believe Japan is an innovative country”. Surely, this is a perfect example of how not to follow Tufte’s principle that “graphics must not quote data out of context” (Graphical Integrity, 1983).
How Baby Boomers Describe Themselves. (n.d.). Retrieved October 12, 2014.
Smith, N. (2012, July 1). Pulp Fiction Infographic. Retrieved October 13, 2014.
Infographics vs. Infocrapics: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly - SEO.com. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2014.
Terrible infographics. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2014.
Flight Risk - Every Major Commercial Plane Crash of the Last 20 Years - Information Is Beautiful. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2014.
Flight Risk Exploring fatal commercial passenger plane incidents since 1993. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2014, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbc.com/future/bespoke/20140724-flight-risk/
Tufte, E. (1983). Graphical Excellence. In The Visual Display of Quatitative Information, (pp. 13-15). cheshire Connecticut: Graphic Press.
Tufte, E. (1990). Narratives of Space and Time. In Envisioning Information, (pp. 96-119). Cheshire, Connecticut: Graphics Press.
Tufte, E. (1983). Graphical Integrity. In The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, (pp. 53-77). Chesire, Connecticut: Graphic Press.