A TRUTHFUL ART

What I didn’t know about infographics ten years ago – and I should have

Alberto Cairo, School of Communication, University of Miami

http://www.nytimes.com/
interactive/2013/12/20/sundayreview/dialect-quiz-map.html

Our work is going mainstream:
It’s becoming popular because it’s persuasive, informative, and fun
We have the responsibility of getting things as correctly as possible

SHIT I DID A
DECADE AGO BUT
SHOULDN’T HAVE
here we go…

What I did

Choosing forms to represent data
based just on how cool they looked
!

What I should have known

Visualization has certain (flexible)
rules based on how the eyes and
the brain work

How Music Preferences Have Changed in Two Decades
Music styles preferred by University of Miami students. Survey based on interviews with 1,000 students.
SOURCE: WishfulThinkingData Inc.

1994
Country
Reggae

2014

Classic

Country
Hard Rock

5% 5%
10%

Reggae

Classic
Hard Rock

35%

20%
25%

Hip-Hop

Hip-Hop
Samba

Samba

How Music Preferences
Have Changed in Two Decades
Music styles preferred by University of Miami students.
Survey based on interviews with 1,000 students.
SOURCE: WishfulThinkingData Inc.

1994
40%

2014
Hard Rock

30
Samba
20

Hip-Hop

10

Reggaeton

0

Country
Classic

What I did

Receiving data from a source and
rushing to design an infographic
!

What I should have known

Always read the documentation
carefully, analyze the data, and
consult with other sources

http://www.vox.com/cards/health-prices/america-is-getting-gouged-on-health-care-prices

READ MORE http://www.thefunctionalart.com/2014/04/my-new-infographics-motto-its-more.html

What I did

Thinking that readers dislike
complexity and only want to
see the simplest graphics
!

What I should have known

Infographics aren’t about
simplification, but about
clarification

Less regulation =
More Industry Investment

Following
1992 Cable
Regulations

$56 billion After
regulations
were relaxed

$14 billion

1993-1996 1999-2003

Less regulation =
More Industry Investment

Following
1992 Cable
Regulations

$56 billion After
regulations
were relaxed

$14 billion

1993-1996 1999-2003

Cable Industry Infrastructure Expenditures
In billions
$16

$12

Cable Television
Consumer Protection
and Competition Act
(“Regulation”)

$8

Telecommunications
Act is passed
(“Deregulation”)

$4

$16

1990 92

96

98

00

02

04

06

08

10

2013

What I did

Choosing the data that better
fitted a preconceived headline
!

What I should have known

Your data should lead to
your headline, not the
other way around

http://www.thefunctionalart.com/2014/03/the-danger-of-not-adjusting-for.html

http://www.thefunctionalart.com/2014/03/the-danger-of-not-adjusting-for.html

http://www.thefunctionalart.com/2014/03/the-danger-of-not-adjusting-for.html

What I did

Assuming that data is precise
!

What I should have known

Data is always noisy
and uncertain

Do you want Catalonia
to become an independent state?
No

45.3%

Yes

44.5%

No answer

10.2%

Margin of error: +/-2.95
Level of confidence = 95%

What I did

Assuming that two things
were related just because
they varied together
!

What I should have known

Correlation doesn’t imply
causation

The “Sports
Illustrated” jinx

The “Sports
Illustrated” jinx

Athlete 1

Performance

Athlete 2
Time

Made the cover of Sports Illustrated

Athlete 3

The “Sports
Illustrated” jinx

Regression
to the mean

Athlete 1

Performance

Athlete 2
Time

Made the cover of Sports Illustrated

Athlete 3

New England Journal of Medicine

The Journal of Nutrition:
“Does Chocolate Consumption Really Boost Nobel Award Chances?
The Peril of Over-Interpreting Correlations in Health Studies”

How I stopped
doing shit I should
never have done in
the first place

alberto.cairo@gmail.com

@albertocairo

School of Communication, University of Miami