In my Business Communication class, we spend a class period talking about how to communicate information through visuals. The use of charts, infographics, diagrams or pictures can convey a message much more powerfully and succinctly than just words, and students are urged to become adept at using them.

One of the examples we used this term is below, showing the relative size of a small county’s area compared to its large population. This can make an impression far more strongly than saying Los Angeles County is home to 10.4 million people.

But in the same chapter, we also discuss ethics. The map below infers that LA County is bigger than all the blue states together when what it is really saying is that it is individually larger than each of the states taken on its own. Still a powerful message, but certainly not as dramatic as it would appear at first blush. Ethics are so important in graphics as a quick glance at an image can make an imprint of memorable, yet incorrect information.

There will be a bevy of statistics and graphics flying as the election comes to a close. Examine those charts with the same discernment that you give to the news you absorb. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but that doesn’t automatically make the message clear.

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