Monday, September 14, 2009

Misleading Graphic

During the outbreak of SARS in April 2003, the New York Times printed a graphic about worldwide epidemics. Many people thought the graphic was misleading due to the size and emphasis put on different diseases. However, I feel like this theory is irrelevant once the visual is examined more closely.

When initially looking at the graphic, the variation in font size and style is most noticeable. The diseases are bolder and larger than the corresponding text in each box. Some people believe that the New York Times was trying to correlate to the epidemic’s rectangle size to its prominence around the globe. However, that misconception can easily be disproved by reading the surrounding statistical information. I believe this technique of using various font sizes was chosen in order to draw attention to the different types of epidemics affecting people around the world. As stated in the textbook, “readers respond more positively to large visuals” (Dobrin, Keller, and Weisser 200-231). Therefore, using the oversize fonts intrigues the reader to go on and read the article as well as the technical statistics displayed. Also, the epidemic font size appears to gradually get smaller while moving down the page. This technique allows the reader’s gaze to move down the picture without being too overwhelmed with all of the text.

Another visual rhetoric technique used in the graphic is the variation of background color in the text boxes. The choice of colors helps to distinct the epidemic and related figures from each other. Also, the decision to have the background color dark with the white font color highlights the graphic’s purpose to present information on other worldwide epidemics besides the new scared of SARS.

Overall, the graphic is not misleading and is relevant to the corresponding article. The graphic’s use of font size and color help to draw attention to the collected data of various epidemics. By realizing that the font size was chosen only to make a statement and not for statistical purposes, I believe that the graphic was a good selection for this article.

Dobrin, Sidney, Christopher Keller, and Christian Weisser. Technical Communication in the Twenty-First Century. 2nd Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2008. Print.

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