Data visualization doesn’t matter

Posted by Kim Rees on May 22, 2012 analyzed the top 30 infographics posted on their site and determined that data visualization doesn’t matter:

Data visualization certainly matters when it comes to conveying information effectively, but when it comes to sharing, the answer is no: having data to represent is not a critical ingredient in infographics. More than half, or 53%, of the top 30 graphics do not contain data visualization. And by data visualization, we mean visual objects that are sized, colored, or positioned to represent numerical values.

I think what they actually mean is that data visualization is not the sole factor of a successful visualization. Since they are only analyzing the top 30 infographics, the minority 47% that had data visualization are still very successful. It would be a different story if the 53% of infographics without dataviz were the top successes and the 47% with dataviz were the bottom losers.

My hunch is that the successful infographics posted on are popular because, like other viral content, they strike a nerve, are of the moment, are humorous yet relevant, or have some other je ne sais quoi.


  • Another conclusion is that infographic’s sole purpose is not to inform and to represent on numerical values. It targets people who look at them from social or aestetic point of view instead.

  • I would classify at least 50% of the pictures shown on the frontpage of at any time into the category of “infoporn”. Not necessarily bad but I don’t look at those images for information value/purposes but for entertainment reasons like I would read a comic book.

  • “I think what they actually mean is that data visualization is not the sole factor of a successful visualization.”

    I would say that what they actually mean is that popularity has little to do with substance.

    Infographics have essentially become another internet meme that people will share at will for little reason at all…not much different from LOL cats or chart jams or demotivators.

    The majority of graphics that I have seen on that site fall into the ‘mundane entertainment’ category more than anything, including those analyzed for this study :)

    I realize that could sound cynical and crotchety…it’s not meant that way.
    It’s just that you can’t really infer much of anything about data visualization by analyzing pop culture infotainment…

  • I really love that they use numerical data to make the case that numerical data is insignificant. I’m so tempted to make a pie chart of that statistic.


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