What is an Infographic: Infographic Examples, Types, and History
So,… what is an infographic?
There are many examples of infographics in today’s media, whether that’s a line or bar chart, maybe a cluster graph thrown in there for good measure. Today, infographic examples can be seen throughout media and showcase media in a simplified speech for audience members.
Infographics are not a completely modern concept, nor is it a modern concept for business or media purposes. Some of the earliest renderings of infographics started popping up nearly 180 years ago and continue to be a great informative and resourceful tool for various markets.
What is an Infographic: A Brief History
Infographics have been involved in daily life for a long time. They might not have their modern edge that we see and use today but icons, maps, and visual representations have been utilized for many centuries. Many historic figures and movements have benefited from the best infographics in design.
I’ll start with Florence Nightingale. Nightingale createdsome of the best infographics, which displayed needed improvements in hospitals during the 1850s. She persuaded Queen Victoria about the necessity of improving the conditions hospitals to promote well-being in hospitals. She utilized statistics in the Crimean War in a type of infographic, a Coxcomb chart, to prove how important it was to maintain clean and healthy-oriented medical spaces. Without Nightingale’s easy to visualize information, many hospitals and clinics would not have received necessary funds or financial support from the government.
Probably one of the best infographics would be Charles Joseph Minard’s depiction of Napoleon’s March to Russia, which was made in 1861. He helped create this infographic showing a spectrum of time, deaths, temperature, and location. All of these factors are difficult to use in one infographic but Minard is able to construct a 2-D model of multiple factors regarding the march in an easy to read, if you’re fluent in French that is, chart for others to decipher the information easily and in one place.
On a more recent note, Peter Sullivan brought infographics to a more forefront position by displaying them on the Sunday Times in the 1970s through the 1990s. Sullivan was able to easily create comprehensive material for the public to digest. However, Edward Tufte, an influential pioneer in the field of infographics, regarded some of the graphics shown in the Times as chartjunk, visually appealing graphics with lesser interest in the data they depict.
What is an Infographic: Types of Infographics
Types of Infographics are divided into four categories: time, location, category and hierarchy. (Source)
You’ve probably seen your share of examples of infographics for time as timelines. Whether you are focusing on a political candidate’s progress or the life of an artist, many people choose to condense time information into a timeline to showcase a progression or story.
For location, an example of infographics are heavily influenced by maps. Take the London Underground or story maps for instance. All location based examples of infographics rely heavily on a place and the direction in which an event or person goes. One of my favorite designs is my character map of Pride and Prejudice. Based on the locations in the movie adaptation in 2005 and the characters movement, I’m able to develop a clearer depiction of how the plot progresses compared to reading the entire novel.
You might see examples of categorical infographics commonly displayed for survey results and political issues. It’s easy to place these types of infographics because they are trying to inform the public about a certain issue depending on a predetermined group.
Having a winner and a loser is an example of an infographic for hierarchy. Importance matters to a lot of individuals so displaying a hierarchy of information allows the public to see, at a glance, what is the most important fixture within a set of information. Whether you are showing the best seller or the most important players on your team, hierarchy allows you to showcase your best assets to business competitors and within your company.
What is an Infographic: Sources for Infographic Examples
Henry Charles Beck was the designer behind the iconic London’s underground inforgraphic. It’s revolutionary design is still inspires today’s best infographics.
Essentially, Beck simplified the Underground’s map into geometric lines to showcase the Tube’s direction and locations. Previous renderings of the map relied too heavily on the terrain and literal positions of the topography above.
With Beck’s simplified drawing, additions to the Tube, landmarks, and subway stations were clearly labelled.
The New York Times is probably a pretty well known example for infographics when it comes to newspapers.
After its debut in 1982, the paper has tried its best to be on the forefront of modern and up to date practices for newspapers and magazines alike. One way that the Times is differentiating itself is its capabilities of moving online and incorporating animated infographics.
Not only are they 2-D, but now they are moving towards 3-D and animated infographics. The infographics department won the Missouri Honor Medal in 2012 in part for how it uses some of the best infographics.
WIRED produces a lot of infographics. For me, I’d like to think it was because of the tech and pop culture elusive audiences they might run into.
Using methods to create new types of infographics, such as a Matrix infographic, WIRED mainly looks into complex and multi-faceted chunks of data. They combine many types of infographics to showcase a wider views.
While I adore their futuristic and modern look, I also get the feeling they have their own chartjunk feeling to them sometimes. However, WIRED routinely uses the best infographics in their content to display their stories.
The LA Times is another front-runner for producing some of the best infographics.
Most of the types of infographics that I’ve seen come out of the LA Times are sports-based. Nothing wrong with that niche, and they certainly do it well. Being so statistically immersed in sports culture around Los Angeles has its perks.
They’ve started to delve into local news with various types of infographics but it doesn’t hold the same modern feel that some other infographics I’ve seen.
Due to its wide range of content, National Geographic showcases a lot of the best infographics to save space in their magazines. Rather than allow a whole page to be printed with text, designers and writers allow small bits of information to be digested by the viewer. You can easily see and interpret the data presented to you, which is National Geographic’s main goal.
Infographics are still an evolving art form but they are becoming more prominent in a visual culture. Whether they are in news publication or a book unto themselves, infographics add another layer to a story, along with making content easy to digest for readers.