They’ve been around for much longer than most of us realize, but in today’s day and age of digital communication, infographics have made a splash on the scene and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
We’ve all seen them whether we realize it or not. More-than-likely our first experience with them was in children’s school books or other educational books. There is a difference between a diagram and an infographic however, but infographics’ roots are in the same place as diagrams: semiotics.
Semiotics come up in virtually every academic discipline. It is the study of the relationship between signs and what they refer to. In all things informatics, it almost always relates to how people interpret design elements vs how they are intended to be interpreted. So if highly visual communication that can easily be skimmed also looks sleak and professional one might imagine these things will take off like crazy.
So before we were chopping cute little birds into halves or sixteenths to denote portions of percentages in infographics, how did we massively disseminate complex representations of information? Reports with graphs. And while graphs are a large part of infographics, the new medium emphasizes creativity and design to help convey more than standard graphs.
There is a curiosity that draws us to want to figure out what is being displayed, partly because we have confidence in the professionalism of the infographic but also because we would rather study the beautiful image than read a mountain of text hoping to glean the same information.
This being said, there truly is a significant artistic component to creating infographics. A complex graphic needs to have high production value to hold the attention of a viewer for long enough to understand the concept. It has to invoke that spirit of curiosity in the individual experiencing the information especially when it competes with other infographics for attention.
I see a lot of websites and magazines that use full-page infographics to give a strong summary of the material with carefully chosen supporting facts illustrated in a process format to guide the reader through understanding the article’s point. This is an excellent way to engage the viewer prior to them reading the article or allow for a reader to review the core arguments of an article after finishing the text. I find myself often referring to the infographic as I read the article.
Taking care to enhance articles and other communication mediums with infographics is a great way to promote cutting-edge communication design and reach your viewers/readers/users in a new way.