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Infographics According to Science

January 9, 2014

We see thousands of advertisements and images daily, but which ones do we remember and why? A doctoral student from Harvard’s School of Engineering, Michelle Borkin, sought out an answer to this question. Borkin and several other collaborators collected more than 2,000 informative images from a range of publications and websites; this study later became the largest visualization study to date. Check out the full study here.

Researchers created a group of 410 images that represented the range of visual elements a person may see in an infographic. Online users then went through the series of images and were asked if they had seen each image before. Repeat images always occurred between the 91 and 109 range. See how the study was conducted.

Elements such as “human recognizable objects,” photographs, body parts and icons were part of the most memorable visuals. Color had a huge impact, and graphics with more than six colors were much more memorable than those with only a few colors. And contrary to what the design world believes, Visual Density or images with a lot going (a.k.a. clutter) stuck out as memorable in the study.

Borkin’s study only measured memorable elements after a slide was shown for a brief moment, without taking into account if the information was digested. How much of this matters, you ask? Well I guess not much right now. Borkin and researchers emphasize they have only scratched the surface of the subject through the study. So don’t go designing rainbow gradient body part icon infographics just yet — Borkin ain’t done.