Schweitz Design

Gauging a Visual Gap

The recent lack of posts has been due to some excellent vacationing but I’ve returned to the blogosphere and the above infographic (seen via Digg) caught my eye.  As is the case with many of the popular infographics that grace the front page of digg, this is pretty well designed and touches on a topic with wide appeal. I have a problem with it however and I’m not quite sure whether it’s a legitimate design issue or a fault in my personal perception.

My problem is with the key which clarifies the underlying color coding of the infographic. The key reads from top to bottom, or rather from “undetermined” to “nailed it” in this case. This is all well and good in the stand alone sense. Logic dictates that a list going from essentially “least” to “most” makes perfect sense. However, the graphic itself does not read this way for me. Since the ones who “nailed it” are essentially in the top right, I read this graph from top right down. This means the graph reads in the exact opposite direction of the key. For me, this is a usability issue. It makes the graph harder to understand (which is wholly problematic since the nature of graphs is to make information easier to understand through a visual representation.)

Having stated my problem, I also mentioned above that I’m not sure if this is me nitpicking or this points to a larger issue in terms of interpretation of this piece. The operative word here is “interpretation.” So much of what we, as designers do is try to manipulate the perception of others through visual media. Our goal is to ultimately make the viewer interpret any given media in the manner that we (and more specifically our client) want.

In a similar, albeit infinitely more abstract manner, Ben Dunkle writes an interesting post on his blog about life. In his “Comment Icons” post he raises the issue of which direction to point the “pointy part” of a comment bubble. “Which one says ‘Comments’ more directly?” he asks.

Is this nitpicking? Is there a right? Is there a wrong? Is there an answer? I think think the answer is yes. I also suspect the answer might be no. That which we do everyday as designers is subject to the personal interpretation of each individual viewer/user; try as we might, there are some things that will never be viewed as intended because each unique interpretation  is shaped by the experience, culture and conuntless other factors realted to each individual viewer. In conclusion, the pointy part should point left, or at least that’s how I interpret it.


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