The value of information design

In a time when charts and graphs have become more or less ubiquitous, it’s important to remember what the point of imagery is when representing data. Many apps will take data and represent it in pretty graphs and charts. As a long-time follower of Edward Tufte, I’ve always felt that the point of a graphic was to add meaning, not simply add clutter.

In the new Time + Space Media site that we built, you’ll notice an infographic on the homepage with a larger graphic available on click through. With this graphic, our goal was to add meaning to the data being presented that would make it easily scannable and give people an easy way to access the information.

The first step in the design of an infographic is to discern what the key insight is. In the case of this topic, the most salient point was that people in the 18-24 year old demographic watch more than half of their TV shows on devices other than TVs. From there, it was relatively easy to flesh out the rest of the content to support this point:

  • Show what the averages are in other demographics
  • What do people think of the ads they watch (interestingly, people who see ads on TV shows on computers like them better than those who see the same ads on televisions)
  • People have reasons for where they choose to watch their programming

With all of this information in one graphic, it helps to tell a story about the media-watching habits of many people, which will help media buyers to know best where to place their ads, depending on who they are trying to reach.

Tufte is a huge proponent of keeping chart-junk to a minimum and avoiding decoration. Infographics are becoming pretty common out there, and I find many of them to simply be pretty graphs and charts. Don’t just display the data, add meaning through illustration.

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