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Brody vs. McCandless: The Infographic

Graphic Design

Posted by Mark Sinclair, 11 August 2010, 13:12    Permalink    Comments (34)

Hot on the heels of the graphic design showdown between Neville Brody and David McCandless on Monday's Newsnight, we've noted a first infographic tribute. Posted on, it details the specifics of the stand-off, comparing hair, beards and glasses, among other key issues...

For the full version of Comparing Brody and McCandless is Beautiful (be sure to check the small print at the bottom) go to, the website of London-based graphic designer, Toby Bradbury.

To watch the Newsnight infographics tussle in its entirety, visit the BBC iPlayer here (from about 26 mins in) – and to read Patrick's related piece on the thorny topic of data visualisation, go here.

Thanks to Angus on Design Week for the spot.


hilarious - the whole piece was embarrassing and pointless, a case of graphic design taking itself far too seriously
2010-08-11 13:43:06

Ha love this! Brilliant answer to the programme!
Ben Neale
2010-08-11 14:27:05

I Thought Brody came across as a pathetic anarchic dinosaur who had lost its Mojo back in the 80's and McCandless as a student with no answers or clue to why they did the pretty piece of work in front of them in the first place.

2010-08-11 14:53:54

I watched this thing. Brody was an ass. The problem is they both came from completely extreme and opposite points of view. The David guy was at least trying to be open and showing his work whilst Brody was huffing and puffing and criticising this guys stuff on national TV in the most arrogant and self righteous way.

Whenever a designer is exposed to the wider public they make us all look like idiots. The infographic above perfectly sums up how ridiculous of a debate it was.
2010-08-11 17:01:55
david janes
2010-08-11 17:39:00

I disagree. I think both did well.

I wonder if graphic design can help our friends who are worried to have a fantastic outer cover design for their upcoming humanoid robot!
2010-08-11 17:41:07

Toby Bradbury's infographic is by some distance the most appropriate comment to come out of this ridiculous debate.
Alex Szabo-Haslam
2010-08-11 17:56:09

I watched this. I am a graphic designer and I love infographics, having said that. I both agree and disagree with Brody and McCandless. There's absolutely nothing wrong with McCandless' finding from India, the bus maps which in this case to simplify complicated bus routes for people (if they have access to these maps).

I agree with Brody that when something is too overly designed to the point of losing the message, that defeats the origin and purpose of Graphic Design/Visual Communication. After all, in my opinion, Graphic Design is about marrying function and aesthetic to create a system of design through thoughts, integrating design with technology, and utilizing technology to communicate. We are often too mesmerised by the new technology and let it overshadow the initial message we wanted to communicate, which is in the case of a few McCandless triangle diagram. Brody was right, it did not provoke any feelings. It was just "pretty" information presentation. McCandless might have presented his findings clearly but it wasn't communicating the "message".

I think Toby Bradbury has clearly illustrated Brody's point about being over designing with his little colour cubes at the bottom with the tiny, tiny by line "Just ignore this bit, it's just pretty colours. Everyone loves that s***. I can say that each colour represents a type of word. Would that be enough reason? Okay, that's it. In fact, no. The colours denote "trends" in the conversation, read by some system I'll never explain to anyone."
Elsie Lam
2010-08-11 20:16:36

Graphic Design Manchester
2010-08-11 23:32:49

This makes a mockery of the whole debate - bravo!
James Warfield
2010-08-12 09:00:56

Absolutely brilliant!
2010-08-12 10:40:46

As a designer I totally agreed with what what Brody was putting across. As a society we are now tending to want to make things more pretty and aesthetic rather them getting them to do there job. The whole point of inforgraphics is to get a core value a collection of gathered information across to an audience, is it not?

You can have a relationship between the two aspects but the main aspect should be getting the information across in as clear a form as possible.

Yes and well done David it does look very pretty!, best moment I thought. Wonder if they could get a piece of infographics to show how small he felt there?
2010-08-12 13:01:10

As a designer I totally agreed with what what Brody was putting across. As a society we are now tending to want to make things more pretty and aesthetic rather them getting them to do there job. The whole point of inforgraphics is to get a core value a collection of gathered information across to an audience, is it not?

You can have a relationship between the two aspects but the main aspect should be getting the information across in as clear a form as possible.

Yes and well done David it does look very pretty!, best moment I thought. Wonder if they could get a piece of infographics to show how small he felt there?
2010-08-12 13:03:45

Enter this into the Anti-Design festival!
2010-08-12 13:13:48

I agree with N Brody in the fact that they have no overall message - they're devoid of any opinion. There's no edge, no stance - no real power behind them. They're pretty and clever but that's where it stops. They don't particularly change anything.

However, they do lead to a better understanding which in turn might provoke opinion.

They do look very corporate, cold and functional. I bet the current government will start pumping these things out at an alarming rate.
2010-08-12 16:48:39

If you actually examine McCandless posters they really aren't very clear as infographics.

This one on Colours in Culture is a good example - overly complex because he is trying to make the information fit his design rather than providing a solution that fits and helps communicate the information.

Would have made more sense to index by colour then apply characteristics and countries to the colours. And the culture index (A, B,C ,D etc., ) isn't readable at all. A really terrible infographic IMO.

The Guardian G2 infographics of Peter Grindini are are far more appealing to me. They don't ape the Saville/Dutch aesthetic but fir the content subject matter.
2010-08-12 21:27:55

This is great! Saw the show, both had bad moments. Great idea Gee Dee, lets see if Brody has a sense of humour!

2010-08-13 01:08:03

Is it me, or is Brody looking more and more like rapper Ice-T by the day?
2010-08-13 09:40:43

very nice, its really good to see designers with a sense of humour!
2010-08-13 11:17:10

Surely the only real point here was that infographics can make information more understandable. Do they always? No. Do all of McCandless'? No. But some of them do. The cost of the war in Iraq one was particularly clear, I thought. Brody bemoaned the fact that they didn't have a point of view; but do they have to? I don't think they do.

All in all this felt like the sort of retouching-is-good-retouching-is-bad non-debate that the press is currently excited by.
paul mcmanus
2010-08-13 12:52:26

I thought Brody displayed the kind of attitude that we all end up developing eventually unfortunately. That old man, stuck in the mud, hating of all things new mentality. Thus I was not fooled by the sprightly pony tail.

On the other hand, I thought the other chap understandably seemed a little intimidated by an older head in Brody, hanging on to tightly, to too many past (graphic) glories.

I tended to agree with McCandless more though. He demonstrated an inspiring, emotive willingness to get under the skin... if not generate a sense of fun and interest around what would otherwise be cold statistics, or hard facts and figures. I think McCandless' outlook was far more positive in this respect. Information can get confusing, and can be intimidating, especially to the untrained eye. Not everyone has a designer's ability like us – to easily and efficiently filter and navigate our way through rafts of data. Surely he is correct in thinking that if we engage people, fill their eyes with curiosity and maybe evoke an emotional response, then today's constant bombardment of information, might even be more easy to digest and make sense of – if not enhance the whole user experience. Because that is what today is all about. Its not the consumer culture anymore. Contemporary culture is centred around 'the user'.
2010-08-13 13:07:16

I've grown weary over the ceaseless arguments coming from certain designers who postulate that beauty and information are antagonistic to each other. It's also not a little bit ironic considering what we designers do for a living – when was the last time you heard someone complain about the beauty of a typeface and how it's function is impaired because it is a thing of beauty? I think the flawed perception amongst some designers comes from a lack of understanding of why we do what we do. There are branches of psychology and other scientific fields that are entirely devoted to the study of aesthetics – where effort is spent in understanding the functional nature of beauty. And beauty is functional – it's not simply a facet of will or personal fancy. Even a cursory Google search of "aesthetics" will direct one to a Wikipedia entry that discusses in some detail past and currently accepted theories of the functional nature of aesthetics – but in particular, the functional nature of beauty. Of course there a certain infographics that are obtuse but beautiful. But that is not a function of their beauty, but simply a misguided sense of emphasis on the designer's part. To then argue that beauty is the culprit, is simply missing the point. Similarly, it is utterly illogical to discount the educational value of a graph if it happens to be beautiful. I think it's remarkable that so many designers are fascinated by the visual presentation of data – and in no way do I see this fascination as trivial. The popularity of information visualisation amongst graphic designers underlies what I think is the nascent seed of a potential revolution in the self-realization of applied aesthetics in our field. Here is an opportunity for graphic designers to contribute to testable theories of choice of aesthetics – and ultimately how these choices dictate attraction to graphics but also whether they are correlated with a workable component of the design. You'd be hard pressed to find another practitioner more qualified for this type of work than the graphic designer. Shouldn't this be exciting for our community? – as opposed to something to be viewed with derision?
Peter Crnokrak
2010-08-13 13:19:47

not seen the show yet but it would have been nice if the designer of this graphic had been botheedr to right aligned the sentence "i work in an independent bookshop" correctly. Not only have you let yourself down, you've let us down. Sort it out!
The MIghty Woo
2010-08-13 13:20:22

I think the major point here is that Brody did nothing to help the nation's attitude towards design. But then he probably couldnt care less about that.
2010-08-13 13:25:01

After listening to his inane ramblings about nothing; did Neville Brody actually know why he was on the show?
(at least McCandless was trying to answer the questions!)
2010-08-13 15:02:35

yeah, it looked like brody didnt know why he was on the show. i agree with him though that to an extent mccandless doesn't concentrate on the message and makes his infographics too pretty to the eye, rather than functional messages for the brain.

but a least mccandless worked at promoting infographics and how they can enhance understanding. what was brody there for? just to keep putting his work down for its functional value and reiterate how design must communicate harking back to old.


and yes, overall a sham with no clearer as to point of the tv slot, but look... its generated awareness and publicity for infographics and data vis.
2010-08-13 15:56:52

I thought he had more of a Mickey Rourke thing going on, albeit his younger, less hard brother.

I think maybe what happened here was that McCandless had previously been filmed by an enthusiastic Newsnight squad in his studio, felt bolstered and good about it all, and then on different turf was pitched against Brody whos main agenda is to promote his 'Anti-Design' festival, which is fair enough, so McCandless was thrown and had no argument prepared, Brody was promoting a design festival with an anti-design point of view.

The whole thing, apart from the the pre-filmed section, seemed to be totally negative and lethargic.

What was the point again?
2010-08-13 16:47:40

I just took a look at the anti-design festival website, it looks really over-designed to me. It looks as if anti-design is yet another shallow stylistic trend.
2010-08-14 21:35:37

Never trust a bloke with a ponytail!
Steve Moore
2010-08-15 10:27:07

I think the slot on newsnight summed up the state of most infographics at the moment. Both the host and Brody failed to look beyond the surface of the graphics, and when we are surrounded by so much visual noise who has the time to join the dots...isn't the aim to get information to us as quickly as possible?
While McCandless' work is done with the intention of informing its intended impact is superseeded by its 'prettiness'

I agree with Grahams comment above. The anti-design website demonstrates pointless stylistic traits....showing Brody to be a bit of a hypocrite. I hope the work in the anti-design exhibition isn't undertaken in the same vain
2010-08-15 12:37:56

He looked more like a mix between Mickey Rourke and Matthew Kelly.
2010-08-16 10:02:00

The World is moving towards graphics form of information which is welcomed and loved by people all over the world. As we all would know a picture is equal lent to thousands of words ... powerful information tool is always pictorial representation...
2010-08-16 14:56:07

In an attempt to further design education in our studio I took on the task of recording the Newsnight broadcast for review with our team.

Unfortunately as I watched, I discovered that the 'debate' was with a couple of complete [deleted by moderator]. Brody was coming over all 'Professor Brody-ish' and McCandless was attempting to sound intelligent (but looking more like a deer in the headlights). Complete and utter twaddle from both sides of the argument... (argument, what argument?)

As I sat transfixed at the banality of the 'debate', and waxed prophetically at the knobbishness of our profession, I sat bewildered and saddened.

And then hit the delete button.

But I love the beautiful and succinct infographic which was produced from this Thomas the Tank engine of a trainwreck...

2010-08-16 16:07:00

There is such as thing as graphic overload, which this was a good example of...
Digital Marketing Blog
2010-08-25 17:35:18

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