Chapter 1 (Importance and Efficacy) introduced the tools that we use to make infographic content visually interesting. As we know, we can only measure the quality of these visual elements—or illustration (iconography, framing, visual metaphor, and illustration)—when we’re using them. In other words, an absence of representative iconography does not necessarily mean that we’re missing the mark. We should also assume that we only use them when the message and objectives dictate or allow them to be included. And it’s the designer’s (or brand’s) responsibility to figure this out. Effectively, the appropriateness of illustrative design elements will vary based on the information and the audience.

Using illustration in infographics is the source of much heated debate among academics, designers, and other experts. We don’t have a hard-and-fast rule about illustration use—how much, what style, and the like—beyond the notion that its use, the degree to which it is used, and its style all ought to be dictated by the message and its objectives. That said, these debates typically have two aspects that tend to get mixed up:

  • Is illustration appropriate for use in an infographic?
  • Are the illustrative design elements used in a specific infographic of good quality?

Of course, if your objectives do not require you to use any illustrative design elements, then you needn’t use them. Based on your individual project or situation, the best practice might be to avoid them altogether. And ...

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