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What I thought you said

Putting together a chart or a graphic that tries to share an insight is one of the most interesting parts of my work.  Perhaps even more interesting though, is working out what people have actually taken away in their heads.

Most all of us have played Chinese whispers, and we totally get that the things we say aren’t always the things people hear.  Sometimes though this isn’t just what we say and how it’s changed. Sometimes it’s what we seem to have implied, even if we didn’t mean to imply anything at all. Watching this whole other set of communication in how graphics communicate information can really stretch your mind.

A really cool way of seeing the impact of something like this is looking at the map of the London underground versus the actual map of London (thanx Infosthetics).  Another way to see an impact is to look at diagram like the one below.  If you saw it as a conceptual diagram then you might not think anything of the relative sizing of groups, but if you saw it as a true Venn diagram where shapes and overlaps represented meaningful relationships, sizes and overlaps your interpretation would be very different.

I try to be aware of what the graphic I build might be saying to someone beyond the thing I am trying to communicate, but generally all doing this does is teach me is that people can be very creative in applying meaning.  There is a movement at hand to to ensure news infographics are based in fact and have some integrity. But how would we even know?

It’s a fun challenge isn’t it :-)

Keith

PS. “Data isn’t like your kids. You don’t have to pretend to love them equally” – Amanda Cox (New York Times Graphic Editor)

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