When Function Trumps Form in Infographics

I’m a big fan of the notion of function over form in data visualisation and infographics.  Though often, particularly with regard to usage of the term ‘infographic’, it’s form that’s trumping function online.

This happens when design overwhelms visualisation making it less legible and effective.  Or when visualisation is chosen when there were other more appropriate methods of communication, or indeed, when no form of communication would have been preferable, i.e when there really was no story.  (Silence is often underrated!)

But when you get it right, like a good piece of music, everything has it’s place and complements the other parts.  The design is appealing, the visualisation enhances delivery…

… And Content Remains King!

Take for example, the following speech, which was later transformed into an illustration (underneath)

Watch the first video briefly…

Then watch the animated version…

These two videos were mentioned in a great presentation by Steve Woolgar at a conference called ‘Data Visualisation in the Age of Computerisation’ a couple of weeks ago.  Woolgar pointed out the comments under the Youtube video for the animation are largely focused on the content of the video, not the choice of illustration as a means of communication, or how the illustration is delivered.

Despite the lack of praise for the visualisation or design, on this occasion, these two processes have been executed perfectly.  They work in service of the content.  They are a means, not an end.

The greatest honour for visualisation may not be found in direct praise, but the reflected glory of the content it serves.

It’s a more subtle approach.  It’s like silver service.  When it’s done really well, you might not even notice.


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