Visual Storytelling and the Not-so-humble Infographic

The value of visual storytelling will only increase over time.

You don’t need a research grant from the feds to reach this conclusion. There are only so many words a human brain can process before the overload buzzer goes off (unless you’re Stephen Hawking).

Which brings us to the infographic.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then an infographic must weigh in at around 10,000 words.

Yet, grapevine chatter has the media suffering from “IF,” infographic fatigure. Jesus Diaz from Gizmodo shared this in an exchange with Sam Whitmore at SWMS:

“The explosion of these abominations called infographics has gotten overwhelming. The number of design-deficient morons making these is so ridiculous that you can fill an island with them.”

With apologies to Mr. Diaz,  even mainstream media like Vanity Fair are still publishing quality infographics like the one below that parodies TED talks.

Vanity Fair quality infographics

Very clever.

But look at what’s missing.

No data.

No charts or graphs.

No stacks of coffee cups representing 23 percent of Brazil’s GDP.

It’s similar to the visual storytelling from the best of @SlideShare.

We applied the concept to our own infographic called “storytelling vs. corporate speak.”A so-called expert in infographics told us prior to publishing, “No data, no traction.” Hundreds of postings proved her wrong. Data visualization and visual storytelling are not one and the same.

As communicators, this is where we need to take business narratives.

And if you can do it with a touch of leviy, that’s even better.

Note: PR Newswire will hold a forum called, “Tipping the Engagement Scale in Your Favor: How to Employ Multimedia Content for Compelling Storytelling” on March 28 (this coming Thursday) in San Francisco. The speakers include Jim Lin (Ketchum), Brian Solis (Altimeter Group), and Michael Pranikoff (PR Newswire) as well as myself. Hope to see you there.

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3 comments

3 Comments so far

  1. Dude March 26th, 2013 1:33 pm

    As Ishmael knows, I enjoy using sports examples to present a contrarian, albeit and more correct and righteous approach. So here goes:

    Posting nebulous, hokey images without relevant data is like presenting dot-racing at a baseball game. Sure the crowd roars – do they win anything? Did they learn anything? Is there a call to action (other than, “I’d better go buy some more Crispy Creames . . . “)? The general public / 80% of the audience is entertained. the other 20% are grinding their teeth.

    No.

    In contrast, posting endless stats on the scoreboard is also somewhat irrelevant without context. For example, on the old Candlestick Park scoreboard, the Giants used to display a batter’s ongoing batting average. Depending on the player, and the point of the season, this might change (radically) during the game. The 20% stat nerds could follow it, but the 80% had no clue.

    Ultimately, entertainment without a story/takeaway/some stats will miss the mark. Stats without entertainment might reach not reach the decision makers. And both without credibility won’t work.

    The solution is artfully linking both. And creating a conversation. It means you’ve got to establish credibility, offer something compelling, and give-to-get.

    That’s not cramming a news release with links.

    Next time you’re working on your storytelling,think about the scoreboard at a game — combine data with entertainment (edutainment), establish cred, and provide a call to action. The crowd will roar; and you’ll engage them.

    Peace

  2. hoffman March 26th, 2013 1:49 pm

    That’s the goal.

    If you fall short and still manage to amuse, I view that as a win.

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