Saturday, 11 April 2009

Are infographics over-designed?

Well its an interesting thought

My matey at the Telegraph, Ciaran Hughes thinks so. Is he right? 

Does the power of great illustration and rendering get lost in the quagmire of leading, kerning and baseline-grid alignment?

Maybe its a very valid point. 

Does illustration mean anything? 

Do we prefer to design the news display rather than render the reason?

Do infografistas feel inferior to designers?

Do designers feel inferior to infografistas because they deal with the content?

Should we be meeting in the middle, i.e 'the content'

We've had great fun at the Telegraph the past week, working with Tim Shearing who designs the news section. With the 'Tomlinson' packackage, and the recent 'terror raids' we have produced some interesting editorial - mixing the words, the photography and the infographics to produce editorial harmonics

I hope to get these online soon


  1. I'm not a Luddite or harking back to an illustration-based view of what graphics should be. I think that sort of thing can all too easily look laboured, self indulgent and uninformative. I also happen to think that the best graphics we produce at the Telegraph are also the best bits of design in the paper (trumpet, blowing own, etc). My general feeling is that there is a line we are in danger of crossing, namely where the design/typography elements dictate the graphic rather than serving it. I think it's interesting just how bad the typography and design elements are on Peter Sullivan's work and yet it doesn't seem to matter once you get past that.

  2. On my opinion, information comes first, then design. In the example you show, at first view I thought it was a 40% (or 60%), because the red part is bigger because of the drawing. If we try to explain something, we can't make things harder for the reader. If we want to make something beautiful, I prefer an illustration, adn date besides., but not a graphic. Because if we mix both too much, how can we expect readers to things we're extremely accurate when we want to be? How do readers know when we're trying to explin something or when are we trying to explain a plain data on a 'beautiful' way?
    We have to try to explain things as clear as possible. And if we can also make it 'pretty' much better.
    It's like a house. I prefer a beautiful house than an ugly one. But if the bautiful has holes on the walls, there's no kitchen and the wayter gets in when it rains, I think I would like to live in the ugly one.


  3. My feeling on the matter is that top notch typography and design are essential to presenting information cleanly and crisply. Information and clear well presented visuals go hand in hand. Content is obviously paramount, but I see no reason that as visual journalists and editors we should not endeavour to make information beautiful. The best and clearest for the reader it can be, each and every time. Why should we not ‘enjoy’ the content and strive to make it all the clearer for our readers/viewers by using typography well and designing it with passion. After all a great graphic reads well and informs because it has been designed to. Seeing excellent typography and a fabulous presentation of information just whets my appetite. For me, information that is presented ‘coldly’ or surrounded by bad typography, is simply bad journalism


  4. Information comes first. Design and typography are essential elements but we are here to show and/or explain things as clearly and concisely as possible. The design is there to help the reader take in the information, it should never get in the way.

  5. So we all agree... Information go first, but the presentation is also very important...


  6. I agree with all that is written above. Presentation, design are vital ingredients in what we do. The point I wanted to make is that sometimes for me the design/typography/presentation can relegate the importance of the visual element or replace it entirely. The example the bold Mr Agar has at the top of this page is an elegant, light, concise piece of design that makes sure you read all the text. It works beautifully. However, the visual elements are here solely to underline (that word itself refers to emphasising text) or repeat what is already there in the copy. If you removed all the graphic elements you would still get exactly the same information (although with less pleasure). It shows 1 in 5 with symbols and then says it in words. I know why we do it - it's quick, efficient, takes up little space and is a very effective way of lifting a page. I just worry that if we tend to this way of thinking as a default setting that after a while, when the story really does need something more, that we end up putting the visual journalism, the enquiry, the visual explanation, secondary to the words and their design. Tom Wolfe charts a similar arc in the world of Fine Art in his book The Painted Word, where visual art ends up being dependent on the words used to describe the visual experience.

  7. Right, these are my last words on this (really someone else's).
    Javier Zarracina writing about Comics and Infographics (No.3. Ambience) expresses it so much better than I have.


C'mon - tell me how you feel