Stupid Things Infographic Designers Do

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Now that you know about many of the creative things that designers do to pie charts, bar charts, line charts, maps, and area based encodings, it’s time we showed you some of the stupid things designers do. These don’t fit into the category of creative, because they are just plain bad ideas for infographics. Doing these things could undermine your reputation and discredit the rest of your work.

  1. Decorative Gears are fine, there is nothing wrong with a few gears to symbolize systems or work. The problem is when you draw gears that can’t possibly work, or with teeth that don’t line up. Odd numbers of gears all meshing in a loop will never work. Gears like this make people wonder if you really even understand how the world works.  
  2. Three Dimensional Charts are almost universally a bad idea. Don’t Do It.  
  3. Tables of Numbers are absolutely the most boring and inefficient way to show data to another human being. If you have two or more numbers with any sort of relationship between them, you should be using a visualization. If you need ideas, here are 45 ways to communicate two quantities.  
  4. Periodic Tables of things that are not periodic are created by people who don’t really understand the Periodic Table of Elements. If you are going to use a visualization technique and you don’t understand how it works, do some research on it first. That way you can be certain you are using it correctly. In the meantime, leave the periodic tables to the elements.


  5. Quantity Comparisons can be a good way to help people get an idea of the size of really large quantities. The problem is when designers use absurd comparisons. The goal of the comparison is to help people put the quantity in terms they can comprehend, but obscure references, or huge quantities of the compared unit don’t accomplish that.  

If you are a designer creating infographics, just make sure you engage your brain during the design process. Your work will be better served, and your client’s story will be represented better.   Drew Skau is Visualization Architect at and a PhD Computer Science Visualization student at UNCC with an undergraduate degree in Architecture. You can follow him on twitter @SeeingStructure


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