While the information is of the utmost importance when it comes to soundness, what is done with the information—essentially, how it is designed—is also important. With this in mind, there are two things to consider: format and design quality. If an inappropriate format is used, the outcome will be inferior. Similarly, if the design misrepresents or skews the information deliberately or due to user error, or if the design is inappropriate given the subject matter, it cannot be considered high quality, no matter how aesthetically appealing it appears at first glance.

An infographic’s design should be prescribed, with regards to appropriateness and effectiveness, by the objectives and the information being displayed, not individual preferences. The design is the application of a visual solution to the problem; it is representative of the approach as a whole, rather than individual elements (e.g., an illustration or icon). According to Moritz Stefaner, “information visualization and information graphics work best when they take the recipient and the data seriously.” This advice reflects the old adage that form should follow function.

This is why we must contextualize our perception of beauty. Some people like illustrations of monkeys or pirates alongside their charts and graphs; others consider anything other than black, left-aligned Helvetica Medium on white to be “noisy.” Both of these solutions can be effective and be considered good given the proper context. Picking the ...

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