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Infographics are everywhere -- is that a good thing?

Organizations love to create infographics – but why? In one click-and-slow-scan, an infographic (information graphic) can tell a story that typically takes 20 slides or a lengthy narrative. Within the past few years they have become so trendy and pervasive, along with the free and/or inexpensive tools to create them, that people are now giving advice about how to create cleaner infographics – a good idea – some are pretty awful.  In 2012, it seemed essential (although not clearly related to any objective, actually) to start collecting those that relate to aging, health,  business and technology.  Now there are quite a few, so let’s look at those from this past year – and perhaps some are useful in age-related businesses -- remember to scroll down past text in a few cases:

Aging – aggregated statistics provide the viewer with a scan of shock and awe.  Age-related infographics are very trendy – perhaps intended to be horrifying to the viewer – how will we cope? Organizations really want us to understand that people are getting old, especially in rich countries – no, seriously, they will actually be much older, and that geographically-speaking, their life expectancy, especially for women, is worrisome.  And those baby-boomers, oh my, there will be a caregiving problem some day..  And to make us more nervous, consider malnutrition among seniors.

Health of older adults -- is it terrible? Well, it depends on who you ask. It could be for boomers that their health is either an issue or inspiration.  Are they staying active and connected?  And do they take their meds (nope)? Contemplate our mobile health future – it’s big, really big. And ask yourself, is there a connection (pun intended) between Internet use and health status?  Many wonder about the terminology/taxonomy tango – are you a quantified self tracker?   Narrow the topic to caregiving (who are those caregivers, anyway?)   And have the caregivers and their parents planned for long-term care? Actually, no. But long-term care providers assert that innovation is underway.  

Business and technology – the backdrop for innovation-to-be. Startups are typically small businesses when they start – take a look -- there are a surprising number of them.  Next up, of course, is technology the key to aging well?  (You know where I stand on that.)  But seriously, for the aging, more progress is needed -- seniors use of the Internet is improving, but not that great. Contemplate the state of the wireless market (big, big of course, and key to our mobile future.)  And finally, for those just starting up, an infographic of advice for fixing your LinkedIn profile.

Infographics and videos compress communication -- perhaps too much. Are you also noticing that a number of startups are launching their websites with videos? Like infographics (popular for marketers to grab your attention span), video encapsulates what may take far too many words to say -- and some actually believe that the future of web design is video. But consider the text missing from videos.  What does the company really do and for whom?  Is this video a replacement for hiring a marketing communications expert or website designer? Will there be a press release of text for the media to read and use in a publication? Is it too early for that -- and perhaps, then, too early for the video to appear?  Now consider infographics, typically from larger organizations -- perhaps presenting so much data in chart form -- are these 'gagging the data'?  The lesson? The overuse of any tactic alienates viewers eventually and may make them immune to the marketers' messages. 


Great post Laurie, and thanks for sharing all the examples. I think infographics will remain relevant for their ability to tell a story, but also because they usually present statistical data in a more easily digestible format than what you get from survey results or an analyst report, which most people will never bother to read in their entirety. Of course, organizations can chose which statistics to include, so they don't always tell the whole story, but citations are useful for digging deeper.

It's safe to say they will remain an important marketing and awareness tool, and likely evolve over time. I could see video or moving graphics being worked into more infographics. Perhaps even more interactivity, like the ability to become part of the research.

While info-graphics can be a useful tool to help illustrate a point or demonstrate how to get to start to finish of a project (among other things), I believe it is oftentimes used as a tool to gain a readers attention who would not otherwise read an article regarding the topic the info-graphic covers. My fear is they will be used as watered-down versions of what should be scholarly articles simply to quickly gain a readers attention, without providing full detail on the subject matter.