What is an infographic?
The most common definition of Infographic describes it simply as a visual representation of information and data. By combining elements of text image, chart, diagram and, more recently, video, an infographic is an effective tool to present data and explain complex issues in a way that can quickly lead to insight and better understanding.
An infographic is:
- A data-rich visualization of a story.
- A tool to educate and inform.
- A way to build brand awareness.
Despite its recent mainstream popularity, they have been used in newsrooms across the world for many years, under the “umbrella” of Editorial Design.
In the past few years, the news industry has seen also the rise of data journalism and storytelling with data, while the Internet has present itself as the perfect platform for more complex data based narratives and visualizations.
According to Jaime Serra, one of the most influential designer in the world for the past two decades -, an infographic is “a form of communication that uses visual language and text. Both languages are complementary, part of a whole, and therefore can’t be understood when separate”.
The term “infographics” has expanded to many industries in the past decade, becoming a powerful communication tool for businesses, governments and educational institutions. There's a whole new audience of professionals interested in presenting data in a more compelling, insightful and engaging way.
What makes a good infographic
Infographics have the power to present complex data in a concise, highly visual way. When done right, they tell data stories effectively by making information easy to digest, educational, and engaging
Good infographics need to be focused with a clear idea of who the target audience is and what the core message will be. Start with a powerful title. Researchers at MIT conducted an eye-tracking study to determine how people process information. They found that good headlines are the key to audience retention. They draw your viewer in, explain the journey they are about to go on, and make them curious to learn more.
A good infographic is like a good story.
It has the ability to walk you through different phases, offering you facts and intriguing visuals along the way. You can control the flow of your infographic using numbers, headers, color, white space, pictures, and of course - charts.
Your number one job is to show people the data. This is why you should aim to have the proper balance of charts and visual elements. While your data might work with multiple chart types, it’s up to you to select the one that ensures your message is clear and accurate. Always follow best charting practices.
The key thing to remember when designing infographics is that simplicity is key.
Unless you know how to design complex data visualizations, our best advice is to keep it simple. You don’t want to make your reader work harder than they have to in order to understand your work. A busy visual isn’t fun to look at and often distracts from the message.
The history of infographics
Have you ever wondered about the origins of infographics?
The following map from Info we Trust guides you through the long history of visual representation of Information.
We’d like to introduce you to some of the amazing men and women who paved the way by combining art, science, and statistics.
There’s little discussion around the fact cavemen were the first infographic designers. They turned everyday life into images depicting births, battles, wildlife, deaths, and celebrations. One of the more famous cave painting sites was discovered in France. The Lascaux paintings are estimated to be around 17,300 years old.
Egyptian hieroglyphs were a formal writing system used by the ancient Egyptians that used symbols to illustrate words, letters, and concepts. They were a unique but widely used and accepted form of communication, dating back to 3000 BC. These hieroglyphs mainly depicted life, work, and religion.
William Playfair is considered the father of statistical graphics, having invented the line and bar chart we use so often today. He is also credited with having created the area and pie chart. Playfair was a Scottish engineer and political economist who published The Commercial and Political Atlas in 1786.
Edmond Halley was an English astronomer, geophysicist, mathematician, meteorologist, and physicist who is best known for computing the orbit of Halley’s Comet. Halley developed the use of contour lines on maps to connect and describe areas that display differences in atmospheric conditions from place to place.
Florence Nightingale is famous for her work as a nurse during the Crimean War, but she was also a data journalist. She realized soldiers were dying from poor sanitation and malnutrition, so she kept meticulous records of the death tolls in the hospitals and visualized the data. Her ‘coxcomb’ or ‘rose’ diagrams helped her fight for better hospital conditions and ultimately save lives.
Alfred Leete was a British graphic artist whose work used many of the visual and data elements we see in infographics today. As a commercial artist, he designed multiple posters and advertisements, most notably his famous wartime propaganda for the London Opinion.
Otl Aicher was a German graphic designer and topographer best known for designing pictograms for the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. His simplified pictograms became a universal form of communication, appearing on many street signs we see today.
Peter Sullivan was a British graphic designer best known for infographics he created for The Sunday Times in the 1970’s, 80’s, and 90’s. His book Newspaper Graphics is still one of the few books focusing on information graphics in newspapers.