Can you have a good infographic without data?

In thinking about what makes a great infographic, I’ve been struggling with the issue of data (and not just because I’m an English Literature grad). The problem is that, as pointed out in our previous blog , good data is a key component of most infographics. Take, however, this infographic (Source: Gizmodo):


I like it, and it’s certainly informative. The design works well, and it’s striking enough that I would consider sharing it on my LinkedIn profile. However, some would argue that it is missing the most important element: data. But I think it’s fair to say that adding in data would make the infographic crowded and less enjoyable. There is also a well-documented infographic called the content grid from Eloqua, which has won awards, without a shred of data in it. So why do some infographics work with no data when others do not?

The answer is that not every infographic subject depends on data. If you are describing an idea, or a process, then your infographic’s success will be down to the integrity of your ideas. The example above works because the points make sense; the ideas have integrity. That integrity forms the same function as the data in your infographic.

That said, be wary when designing your infographic. The integrity of your reputation will remain linked to the integrity of your ideas; if what you are conveying is open to dismissal, dispute or (worst of all) ridicule, then so is your reputation. And if data does exist to back up your points, not using it will get you in trouble.

So can you have an infographic without data? You do need to be careful, but if you have made sure that the idea you are portraying is sound, then an infographic can be a striking way of demonstrating thought-leadership or making your processes easily understood – and being striking or making things easy to understand is exactly what an infographic is about.