Some things look better in graph form than they do in reality. The US deficit, for instance—you really don’t want to see that in Benjamins or gold bars. No good can come from that image. Food, however, almost always looks better as food. That’s why Fat or Fiction, a project by design trio ACD, puts food at the core of its own infographics. The result is like Eat This, Not That got a master’s degree.
“We wanted to visualize the nutritional information in food that looks as good as it tastes, to create a refreshing site that lets you explore the data and make your own food choices, guilt-free,” co-designer Christina Winkless explains. “We chose to use photography in order to explore a new way of visualising data that stands out amongst a vector dominated art form. It is also a medium that lends itself well to the context, as looking at cakes and sweets is part of the pleasure of eating them.”
Fat or Fiction is a pretty diverse collection that feels more experimental than polished product, but frankly, that’s part of its charm. One visualization compares cakes in a pie chart. It’s a pun, and it makes sense. The shape of a pie graph is a natural fit for tracking the metrics behind cake while managing its wedge aesthetic. And in this case, the topic—grams of fat—is easily perused. The bigger the slice of cake, the more fat you’ll find in a 100g serving. (And, no, the slices might not be perfectly proportional, so hover-over tooltips clarify the exact numbers.)
In another visualization, candy bars are compared in a bar graph. Another silly pun, and another perfectly suitable idea. The longest “bars” are also the candy bars with the most fat lurking inside.
And, in maybe their least clever but most usable idea, they compare the fat content of entire (individual portioned) bags of “crisps”—potato chips and their derivatives—dumped out right on the table. It’s such a clear visual, it begs the question, why are we still focusing on “one cup servings” when we can use photography to literally show exactly what a serving looks like?
If FDA labels were working—not just conveying information, but making people understand and care about it—we’d live in a healthier, slimmer society. Behind the Northern Lights and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the front of a bag of Doritos is one of the most tear-inducing scenes of mankind, so why is looking at the back such a visual punishment?
But until the government can decide on a proper cake-pie-graph standard, I guess we’re all stuck with the ugly alternative.