Monday, July 19, 2010

12 PowerPoint Slides That Confused the Earth

An astute reader made a comment on Greentech's recent offering. Sierra Fong says, "Information graphics should be immediately understandable and contain all the information you need. That’s what people react to."

What about information graphics that are immediately understandable but communicate a mixed message that may contain more bad than good? We know cartoons and cowboys sell cigarettes but it took us a while to figure out who was buying. Clearly, there needs to be some consideration of the unintended consequences of seemingly simple messages.

The famous information graphic slide (a genre really) I have a problem with is the type that shows the area required to power the US (or where ever else) with solar panels. This slide communicates the idea that it doesn't require a lot of land (overall) to power the US. Unfortunately, it mis-communicates the area requirements and logistics of transmission. It also communicates the worst sort of over-centralization that you can possibly think of. The area of land slide is immediately "understood" but how much truth and how much lie come packaged together?

Relatively easy fix for this one. You create a "Million Points of Light" slide. That dumb 50 by 50 km square plot of PV turns into a constellation that would look something like the almost famous "US at night" slide. I think you'll get a more honest message from this sort of display. Does it pass the immediately understandable test? I don't know. To be continued after arts and crafts time.

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