How To ‘Do More With Less’ And Still Deliver Value To Readers

InfoGraphic on Las Vegas Housing Data

About 10 years ago I was at a FOLIO: Show presentation by a Time Inc. executive who said something like:

“The future of publishing is that you will have to do more with less. You might as well get used to it.”

He has been correct every single year of my career since then. Over those years, I have found ways to accomplish this at GreenBuildingAdvisor.com, Fine Homebuilding (magazine and web), and most recently, at Builder magazine. The three publications are very different, but two underlying strategies worked at all three places:

  1. Build a bank of content from which to withdraw
  2. Find rich veins to mine, in order to replenish the bank.

Here is one example of an infographic that accomplishes both: A redesigned Builder magazine department featuring charts and graphics pulled from a big-data website.
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Fast Company InfoGraphic Review (4) — Political Power

Icons, small multiples, and color can convey a deep dive of information at a glance. They can also hide info in plain view.

Final segment of the Women in Numbers infographic review. I’d like to reiterate this review is the result of an attempt to defend infographics, not an attempt to attack them. This review is not meant to illustrate how lame Fast Company is. I don’t think Fast Company is lame.

I talked about Children & Family, Economy, Education & Employment, in the first three segments.

Political Power

There are either two or three parts to this section in the lower right — there are two sets of icons and a group of circles with numbers inside them. The circles seem to be related to the icons with flags above them — there are 20 icons and one of the numbers is 20 — but it is not clear that the circles are related to either set of icons. Upon further inspection, it seems that the circles are related to the icons above them, but not the icons to the left of them.

But let’s get to the bigger problems and solutions.

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Fast Company InfoGraphic Review (3) — Education and Employment

[Part three of my four-part series taking a critical look at an infographic.]

This section uses a pie chart, pictogram, and numbers to tell a story.

Or does it?

A couple of weeks ago I decided to review an infographic published on FastCompany.com. The previous two installments are Economy and Children and Family

Education and Employment: Three graphics, three problems

The pie chart is fine — the big wedge begins at the top and moves clockwise, like we read (Left to right, top to bottom). Continue reading

Fast Company InfoGraphic Review (2) — Economy

Pie charts, pictograms, and numbers can tell a great story, or not.

Last week I began a review of an infographic put together by Fast Company and Love Social. It is called Women in Numbers, and is featured in a blog post called The Case for Girls. I began with the top section, Children and Family. This week, I move down the left side of the page to the next section: Economy.

Click image to embiggen

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What is Wrong With This Infographic? Part 1

Part 1 of a 4-part infographic review on Fast Company’s ‘Women in Numbers’

A blog post over at manager-tools.com (my favorite podcast) brought up the topic of infographics. Wendii, the blogger, expressed exhaustion with the infographics posted to Fast Company’s ‘Infographic of the Day’ page. After looking closely at some of the infographics featured on that page, I have to agree with Wendii that these are excellent examples of how NOT to do it.

I chose one of them to look closely at. Rather than just talking about problems, I’ll offer possible  solutions too. Because the InfoTruck delivers solutions.

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Microsoft: Why Most Business Charts and Graphs Suck

Three-dimensional charts and graphs hide information unless three dimensions are being plotted.

UPDATE: It looks like the video has been closed down. Thank goodness. The InfoTruck claims no responsibility for this improvement

I don’t know how many hundreds of times I have sat through presentations in business meetings or at conferences where the presenter shows slides with a 3-D column chart. Because the column is drawn in three dimensions, it is hard to tell exactly where on the y-axis the top of the column corresponds with. In making the column chart fancy, the presenter inadvertently hid information.

This is even worse on a 3-D pie chart, whose job is to illustrate relative amounts or area.

Decoration is not design.

Design finds solutions to problems, decoration dresses things up for the holiday. When delivering information graphically, always begin with two dimensions. Dollars over time. Building permits per zip code. Miles per hour. Words per minute. Only move to three dimensions when the information asks for it. Height, width, and depth for example.

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