Part of our role as marketers is to crusade for a healthy, useful, informative web. So we set out on the noble quest to be honest, accurate, and never misrepresent our information or deceive our audience. TyAnna Kay Herrington explains that, “readers bring less sophistication and thus less skepticism to the comprehension of a graphic representation.” So basically we as readers are more susceptible to falling for the old parlor tricks of advertising. It doesn’t make us dumb, it’s just that we’re usually not paying that much attention. We’d like to think these sources are honest.

During election time there’s a blizzard of unethical pie charts, line graphs, infographics… and even worse, the represented data is mined from the skewed views of a biased audience. Candidates slandering their opponents. News networks conducting polls and studies, and presenting the data to tickle their loyal viewers’ fancies. I’m disgusted just thinking about it. And sometimes businesses will “cut costs” by having their sales guy who says he has “experience in digital design” do the job…. Or perhaps a completely competent graphic designer will be the arbitrator. No matter where it comes from, we need to make it stop.

So how can we better understand our audiences as illustrators? How do we avoid misrepresentation and irrelevance? It takes sensitivity toward our audience and a lot of standing in their shoes. It requires compassion and abundant knowledge. The conscious effort to be sensitive in your illustrations isn’t easy. Communication extraordinaires Dragga and Voss explain it well: “…technical illustrations are never objective representations of reality, but socialized constructions of multiple subjective interpretations of available filtered evidence.” Translation: illustrations might be interpreted differently by others, because how we view the world is shaped by our experiences in the setting we’ve lived in. When displaying data visually with technical illustrations, there has to be a conscious link between the two messages – and a link that suits the target audience. But most importantly, we must approach the imagery we pair with our content ethically, accurately, and honestly.




Sam Dragga and Dan Voss, “Cruel Pies: The Inhumanity of Technical Illustrations”

TyAnna Kay Herrington, “Ethics and graphic design: a rhetorical analysis of the document design in the “Report of the Department of the Treasury on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms investigation of Vernon Wayne Howell also known as David Koresh