Data visualization has always been an effective method of representing information. We can date the earliest versions of graphs and information mapping back to the early 1600’s, when Christoph Scheiner and his peers began using diagrams to represent his astronomical research of the sun’s rotation. Technology has given us the ability to visually represent data much more easily with programs like Microsoft Excel, Tulip, Tableau, OmniGraffle and Adobe Illustrator. Software of this nature enables the creation of really stunning and artistic infographics.
Newspapers, magazines and other print media had been the major source of infographics in the mainstream until recently. Think of the weather section in the newspaper: the color-coded map of the nation showing temperature and other conditions is a simple form of an infographic. In magazines, we have become accustomed to visual representations of survey responses, statistics, timelines, etc.
However, infographics and other forms of data visualization have been springing up all over the Internet recently. They have become so popular, in fact, that a handful of websites and blogs dedicated only to spotlighting infographics, such as visual.ly and Daily Infographic, have been wildly successful as a result.
This trend can be mostly attributed, as can many Internet content trends of late, to the widespread popularity of social media. We know that blogs and feeds like Facebook and Twitter have been so widely adopted because they aggregate a lot of information into bite-size portions in one, digestible stream. Infographics perfectly complements these content channels by representing data into a concise, visually appealing way. As a result, otherwise uninteresting information becomes a novelty that the Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest communities are eager to share.
The Status Quo: Static Infographics
The most common infographics, you have likely seen many of them, are static infographics. Like my example of the weather map from the newspaper, these infographics are unmoving and require no input or action from the viewer.
Passive Viewer infographics are animated infographics that also require no input from the viewer, but they represent data in a more dynamic way. “Is the Internet Awake?” shows an approximate view of the time of day in 25 different countries with orbs that oscillate based on the ticking clock at the top (view the animated version here).
View the animated graphic here: http://www.edlundart.com/pages/is-the-internet-awake.html
More interactive graphics require direct input from the viewer. Sometimes this means data entry like age, location or arrow commands from the keyboard. A great example of a moderately interactive infographics is “The Bright Future of Carsharing.” This infographic includes animations and allows the viewer to “drive” the car along the infographic. Rather than just presenting data, this example really tells a story with the information. Creating these types of dynamic infographics requires careful storyboarding to ensure that user engagement does not drop off and that the overall flow is effective.
Check out the full interactive graphic here: http://futureofcarsharing.com/
Finally we come to highly interactive infographics. This particular example really stood out to me because it has found an impactful way to address a rather dark, touchy subject: slavery. The infographic has been created in the style of a quiz to help users discover “How Many Slaves Work for You?” Instead of just choosing from multiple choice lists or typing answers, this graphic is more like a game, allowing users to play around with fun, animated elements while providing staggering statistics all the way.
Find out your slavery footprint here: slaveryfootprint.org
Interactive and dynamic infographics are the future of data visualization. Similar trends towards interactivity can be seen in eBooks, mobile applications and web applications. Interested in checking out some more examples? Check out this website.