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Some Info on Infographics

So, what is an infographic? Infographics are graphic visual representations of well, information, facts, and data.

First, some history about them. You can take a deeper dive at Wikipedia.

Back In 1626, Christoph Scheiner published a book called the Rosa Ursina sive Sol, which revealed his research about the rotation of the sun. In it, Christoph used infographics to illustrate the Sun’s rotation patterns.

Then, in 1790, the engineer and political economist, William Playfair, published data graphs in his book, The Commercial and Political Atlas. The graphs that he created to represent the economy of 18th Century England, included statistical graphs, bar charts, line graphs and histograms. Also, in Statistical Breviary, he is credited with introducing the first area and pie charts.

The famous English nurse, Florence Nightingale, used infographics in 1857 to persuade Queen Victoria to improve the conditions in military hospitals. She created a Coxcomb chart, a combination of stacked bar and pie charts, that depicted the number and causes of deaths during each month of the Crimean War.

By the 20th century, infographics were used to document everything from art to science. Now, in the 21st century, we find infographics being used everywhere and in many forms. Combining animation with data visualization has resulted in moving infographics for a variety of purposes including music videos and good ol’ product marketing. Infographics are also a perfect format for the social-media-hungry world since sharing them is as easy as sharing a photo — lots of information in a quick, easily digested and cool package.

One of the more obvious benefits of infographics is their ability to make a lot of information seem a lot simpler, and thus, more understandable. Think of signage around the world. They are actually small infographics in the most basic sense. For example, crosswalks in Nice, France, use an icon of a man (with a hat — naturally they are more stylish there) for their crossing symbol. I don’t speak French, but I know that when that little man flashes green, it is safe to walk. Much like many cities around the world, an image of a man with some kind of color coding results in a universally understood symbol.

Symbols that translate all over the world are a universal human vocabulary. These universal symbols have always been a part of graphic, industrial, and environmental design. So, it only seems natural that this form of communication has moved into almost all mediums of  human communication. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.

According to the good people at Neomam, there are 13 Reasons Why Your Brain Craves Infographics. It’s also an amazing interactive infographic, well worth checking out.

A couple of the points it makes about the power of infographics is that we are visual creatures. We are essentially visually wired and we are living in an age of information overload. We read and process over 100,000 words per day! So, you can imagine that looking at a nice visual to process some of that information is a relief. It is also important to note that images and text make something exponentially easier to understand. I think it’s good to remember people’s attention span for information these days is low. Being able to convey your point visually is the best strategy when you have a wide audience and a lot to convey — think content strategy.

(credit: Julian Hrankov)

(Credit: Julian Hrankov)

While the explosion of infographics over the last few years can be chalked up to a trend, I believe they will remain important for many years to come as an effective way to communicate in many mediums. It is a tool that marketers, designers, technical writers, city planners, and others can use effectively to communicate facts and ideas alike. Probably the most inspiring things about them are the endless possibilities, formats, and creativity that they can encompass. You can tell a joke with a 3-D infographic or make a marriage proposal in the form of an infographic.


(Credit: Fastco)


Additional Resources for Infographics

Do you have a favorite infographic? Ever create one of your own?

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