Animated infographics are only really for thick people: discuss

When an academic friend of mine saw one of our animations recently (this one), he said “Yes. Very nice. But animations like that…they’re just for thick people; people who can’t read properly, study, absorb complex information…”.

I took a step back. I’ve read articles like this one, about how Powerpoint is destroying effective learning in higher education, and this, saying much the same about elearning, and broadly agreed with them. But could we, Prezient, be contributing to this dumbing down trend? Actually, I don’t think so. Here’s why not.

Concentrations spans are shrinking. I’ll start on thin ice. For better or for worse, people don’t focus on things as long as they used to. This article suggests we’re now worse than goldfish. But maybe that’s not a bad thing. In order to cope with information saturation, most people have developed a range of skills which include the ability to skim and skip text and visual cues, pick out key points and move on quickly. But often we don’t have time for this, and focus can be lost. Attractive, well-designed visual presentations can meet the need for summarized information, while maintaining concentration.

The world is increasingly complex and changes constantly. Today most people have little time for sitting quietly, researching what’s going on and forming well-founded opinions. We need short, sharp summaries that cut through the mass of communication noise, and we need them often as things change.

Multi-tasking abilities have improved exponentially. And we’re not just talking about “young” people who watch TV while playing on games consoles while mixing beats on their tablets while chatting to their friends on Instagram. We all do a lot more all at the same time. So even if we’re highly expert in skimming information, it can really help to have a stimulating visual presentation as part of our ever more complex blend of information sources.

People have different “learning styles”. I know this is slightly dodgy ground. Many authors (have a look at this post) have questioned whether learning styles mean anything at all. But it’s clear that a sizeable proportion of the population like information to be presented visually and dynamically, which is what good animated infographics do.

What do you think?