Misleading Infographics: Apples + Oranges


For the viral challenge, I created an infographic demonstrating common ways in which infographics can mislead and confuse readers. Sometimes these errors are introduced unintentionally. Scaling an icon’s side dimension instead of its area to indicate a change in amount might be the result of an inexperienced author, or a more sinister ploy to make a comparison of two amounts portray one amount as larger than it really is. I called my infographic “Apples + Oranges” because I wanted to highlight that many of the tricks involve creating a false comparison between two things, and “it’s like comparing apples and oranges” is a very common expression that provides an analogy making the concept easy to understand. I used apples and oranges in the examples I provide to create a coherent theme that does not make the reader have to spend too much time on each individual graphic.

I chose this topic for my viral challenge not only because I think many articles that go viral follow a theme of “Don’t be fooled by…”, “The real reason…”, “The truth behind…” etc. People want to read the article because they don’t want to miss out on something important, and they want to consider themselves “in the know.” It’s really important for media consumers today, in an increasingly graphical world, in which politicians, public awareness campaigns, and many more special interest groups use infographics to convey information. Too often, these are reductive and misleading. Information literacy is an important topic that I hope will resonate with people.

If you’re interested in learning more about the right and wrong ways to present data, I recommend Edward Tufte’s books, which I drew upon when putting this infographic together.

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