When the Best Infographics Are No Infographic at All?

I’m continually amazed by the number of people who skip text and bypass words and text altogether. I came across an amazing inadvertent and automated example on the National Weather Service Chicago website regarding this Sunday’s weather forecast.

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As you can see the graphical representation says Sunday will have freezing rain and it will be 43 degrees. Say what? Then it says on Sunday night it there will be rain and the low will be 33 degrees. Huh? This make no sense. For my metric friends, zero Centigrade equals 32 degrees Fahrenheit so it appears that freezing rain will occur while it is above freezing, a highly unlikely occurrence.

The actual text of the forecast is as follows:

  • Saturday Night   Partly cloudy, with a low around 28. South southeast wind around 10 mph.
  • Sunday  A chance of rain or freezing rain before noon, then rain showers. High near 44. Chance of precipitation is 80%.
  • Sunday Night    A 50 percent chance of rain. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 35.

With complete text information we can now see that the temperature will be below freezing on Saturday night and that there is a possibility of freezing rain Sunday morning.

But remember this simple example the next time you are watching a mind-numbing Powerpoint presentation on some esoteric subject.  Ask yourself, does this make complete sense? Is proper acumen and judgment being applied?

Frequently it is not. But if human judgment is not actively present and questioning the presentation of certain graphics, they can lead to misapplication of resources and priorities.

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4 Responses to When the Best Infographics Are No Infographic at All?

  1. Vinish Parikh February 9, 2013 at 10:24 pm #

    Good point you have raised as many times even educated people believe images more than the context of information which leads to wrong interpretation of facts and information.

  2. Rick R June 23, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

    I completely agree with this, pictures can be misinforming. But I feel with today’s social media people do not stop to read anymore, sure they will read captions with a picture but they are not as interested in reading blogs, they would rather look at a pretty picture.

  3. Theobald Erwing August 21, 2013 at 4:11 am #

    I think infographics are implications of a more visual culture. I know of companies who abandoned reports altogether and fully embraced infographics as a way of conveying information. Everyone loved the idea, and productivity rose because people were actually taking in the information. Comes to show the visual stimulus helps retaining information. Not sure the example you used qualify as an infographic, but it illustrates your point accurately.
    Cheers,
    T.

  4. Nick October 15, 2013 at 5:55 am #

    Interesting point and I’m sure we can all admit to falling victim to our laziness at one point; we’re visual creatures and when educating ourselves I guess this can be a bad thing! After all we’re looking for a picture of the sun shining and not some boring numbers.

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