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October 12, 2010



As an everyday user w/o much graphic sense I think they're very practical: ever try to scroll a screen sideways? And don't even get me started on videos; the minute I see "watch the video to learn how to....." I leave.

Iain Anderson

Videos contain little information compared to print or web sources. Just compare any video news story transcript to a web article on the same topic. The vast majority of the time, you don't get any useful information from seeing people speak, and a couple of pics alongside the text can give the visual information you might need.

Dan Hill

Thanks for the kind words, mate.

I think something else to mention here is the ease of scrolling these days, as a mode of navigation - due to multi-touch on iPad/iPhone etc., or on trackpad on a laptop (double-finder vertical swipe) or via the scroll wheel on mouse. That's changed things hugely, I think, as you're no longer navigating towards tiny buttons on the side of a browser window, which even with Fitt's Law in mind was a hassle. So that's changed the game, I think. I'm designing a website for Domus magazine at the moment which will take advantage of the vertical scroll (hopefully) though no tower graphics.

As to the couple of comments here about video, I understand the context of the piece is information design, but to say that videos don't deliver much information (Ian) is a little odd. Would you say that about film? To say that there's little "information" in, say, 'The Godfather Part II' would be quite bizarre. But more importantly, video/film evokes, captures, compels (in a multi-sensory way too) and that's what makes it interesting ... but I understand that's different to information design as traditionally practiced.


Dan, there's a huge difference between web video and film.

I think the commenters are thinking about people who embed YouTube videos for product unboxings or general nattering when a few well-commented still photos would suffice. In this case, video is used as a lazy technologicial shortcut for writing something clearly.

Godfather 2 is in no way a lazy shortcut, and is a fine example of video used artfully and appropriately.


True fact: apparently lots of these infographics are just thrown together by dodgy organisations to try and get traffic from Reddit, Digg, etc. The story of one man's job doing just that is here:


Iain Anderson

It's not that informational videos can't deliver information, it's that they don't usually deliver as much information as a well written, carefully illustrated article. There's a really good reason that informational motion graphics videos are widely linked to: they're rare, and hard to make well. (There's much more that can go wrong.)

Yes, a video can deliver a message quite powerfully, but the time and subtlety it takes to do a good job is much harder in video than in the written word. Same in live action and in animation.

And no, I wouldn't say that about (good) film. The point of feature films is not to deliver information, and the aesthetic and emotional pull a film provides is not important when delivering information.

My major criticism here is directed towards news broadcasts and the majority of instructional videos -- especially the staggering number of pointless, unedited talking head videos on YouTube. While I recognise that everyone has a different learning style, I can't see how simply watching someone's lips move is a benefit.

BTW, I do write training material, tutorial articles and create video tutorials professionally. I can write a script for a video in a fraction of the time it takes to capture and edit a tutorial, and while a well crafted informational video does bring a great deal over and above a script, many, many videos are just visual filler while you listen to someone speak. Writing a good article is harder than just writing a script (it's longer!) but not as time consuming as making a good video.

A poorly planned, unedited screen capture video? Horrible. Zero Punctuation? Awesome.


Or as depicted in an infographic (!) here:


Dan Hill

Ta ... I'm not referring to that kind of video (screen captures, unboxings etc.) but to the work of BERG or Matsuda as discussed in my post: http://www.cityofsound.com/blog/2010/09/contingent-films-berg-dentsu-keiichi-matsuda.html (referred to by Max above) That is "web video" (if you like) that has the conditions of film (to a large extent). That's what I was getting at (and I think Max was too?) ...


I feel partly responsible for success of tower graphics as I have been doing them for years now, but I don't think there is anything to worry about. It's just content fitting its form. If the web allowed for easy horizontal scrolling or easy embedding of large wide images, you would see more infographics fitting that space. But right now, there is no elegant way to do that. If blogs allowed for full screen width content, you would see that, but they don't. So tower graphics fit their space like a square peg in a square hole.

It's not like we look at this blog post and say, "wow its a tower article' because its one long column.

Michael Wenyon

I had not realized how tall web pages had gotten until I turned my NEC 27" screen through 90° into portrait format. Even in that orientation, home pages for NY Times and BBC News are both two screenfulls high, beyond the capacity of any existing display. And the sight of such a tall web page is a surprise when you see it, even though you should know it must be that high from the amount of scrolling you do. For most web users, the scrolled page is now the reality, not a truncation of something otherwise whole.

When we made this tall web artwork in 1996, a professional designer told us it broke every rule about good page design:

Max Gadney

I'm getting some good feedback which i think i'll put into another post on the subject.


Interesting graphics, if only the information was accurate. Steve Jobs left Apple and started NeXT Computer and Nexstep OS, the ancestor of the current Mac OS X.

John Blackburne

What I like about these graphics is the same thing I like about the page of well formatted text. The reader is in control of the speed and order they process the information. The problem with videos is they present information at a fixed speed. That speed is usually slow to cover a wide range of abilities to process information. Presenting the information on a single page as a slideshow similarly slows it down to the loading speed, with sometimes extra slowness added by designers as transitions to force you to linger.

Matt Ryan

I'm not bothered by tower graphics any more than I am bothered by longish articles. The real issue here is quality, and, as your post illustrates, tower graphics are no different from text online. There are junky, attention-grabbing tower graphics the same way there are junky, attention-grabbing blog posts (think "17 Signs You Are A Whatever" lists). There are high quality, well-researched, and information-rich tower graphics the same way there are high-quality, well-researched, and information-rich blog posts and articles. In both cases there is a lot more crap than there is quality, but when has that not been true in almost any medium?

Álvaro Valiño

Thanks for sharing your opinions, Max

Dorian Fraser Moore

Great post Max.

I think @steffan has nailed part of the problem with tower graphics/infographcs being used to support an article: they don't support it, they overwhelm it, and the depth and meaning of the article is lost.

Anecdotally I feel that this is down to a laziness in how people are taught about graphics (and video) where they are perceived to be equally rich to reading about a subject, not that each medium conveys information differently and has it's own purpose, hence they believe that by understanding the graphic they don't need to read the article. Kind like like paper, scissors, stone. Cue a new game for information designers, "video, graphics, text"


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