Does GE Think We’re Stupid?

Does GE Think We’re Stupid?

A gem from Stephen Few:

The series of interactive data visualizations that have appeared on GE’s website over the last two years has provided a growing pool of silly examples. They attempt to give the superficial impression that GE cares about data while in fact providing almost useless content. They look fun, but communicate little. As such, they suggest that GE does not in fact care about the information and has little respect for the intelligence and interests of its audience. This is a shame, because the stories contained in these data sets are important.

(graphic omitted)

Most of the visualizations were developed by Ben Fry (including the colorful pie that Homer is drooling over above); someone who is able to design effective data visualizations, but shows no signs of this in the work that he’s done for GE. The latest visualization was designed by David McCandless, who has to my knowledge never produced an effective data visualization. In other words, GE has gone from bad to worse.

Before you decide this is over the top criticism, go read the original post and view the graphics.

The question I would raise, I suppose all those years in law not being wasted, is whether the GE graphics were intended to inform or confuse?

If the latter, made to make the public feel that these are issues beyond their ken and best left to experts, then these maybe very successful graphics.

Even if not sinister in purpose, I think we need to attend very closely to what we assume about ourselves and graphics (and other interfaces). It may be, even often may be, that it isn’t us but the interface that is incorrect.

If you encounter a graphic you don’t understand, don’t assume it is you. If in writing, investigate further; if in class, ask for a better explanation; if in a meeting, ask for and follow up on the actual details.

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