I just read this well-written and clearly-argued piece by Stephen Few on the work of David McCandless. It expresses many of the thoughts I’ve had on the kind of ‘popular infographic’ going round, though I wouldn’t restrict my criticism to McCandless, nor would I be quite so critical of him personally. The style of work he produces is popular because it presents correlations (and sometimes, coincidences) in data in an accessible, attractive and entertaining way — the error is to assume that this represents the best of graphical analysis or that it’s intended to be viewed as such. As many commenters on this Flowingdata piece have pointed out, there’s a difference between graphical analysis and infographics, and while I disagree with the apparent thrust of their collective argument (that Stephen Few is wrong) it is an important distinction to make.
McCandless’ pieces are often beautiful, and they are indeed based on information, hence the title of his book and site, Information is Beautiful, but they rarely offer deep insight into the data. What I would like to see is the equivalent for graphical charts representing actual analysis. Time for an Analysis is Beautiful perhaps?