Where once infographics were a bit of a niche specialism, in recent times they seemed to have gatecrashed the mainstream and you frequently see someone on Twitter drooling over the latest info-tastic offering. So it is with perfect timing Sandra Rendgen has produced a spectacular new book looking at this phenomenon – how infographics have developed, why they’re useful and how they work. There’s more than 400 examples in the book too, which proves Albert Einstein’s maxim: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” We spoke to her to find out more…
What do you think are the key features of a great infographic?
Infographics are all about complexity and clarity. Creating them requires not only creative skills, but also analytical thinking. I think it is crucial that an infographic has a clear focus. The key message must be accessible quickly, in a clear visual structure.
Also, accuracy is essential. Are the infographics showing correct data and dimension units? Are proportions depicted properly? This may sound dull but is absolutely indispensable.
Aside from these basic rules – what we all want in the end is a great visual. We love maps and diagrams not the least because they look good. It is the design that makes us want to look at the data. There is an incredible variety of approaches in information visualisation – I hope we managed to show that in the book.
How did you go about choosing the ones you would feature?
It was something of a meandering process to put the choice together. Together with Taschen’s editor Julius Wiedemann, we worked in loops of researching projects, arranging and discussing them and again searching for more work. We wanted to show how broad contemporary information visualisation is, and included work from journalists, scientists, bloggers, and artists.
It is really fascinating how visualising information is something many people do. Some pieces tackle war issues and are very serious in their tone, while others pick up childhood memories and are pretty funny. I think we managed to put together a collection that shows all these different forms of expression.
There seems to have been a resurgence of interest in infographics over the past couple of years – why do you think that is?
I would assume that a major cause is the widespread distribution of personal computers and the quick growth of the internet over the past decade.
The availability of incredible amounts of data has created an atmosphere of complexity. We are seeking for ways to deal with all this information. Visualisations and infographics are a perfect way to process complex data – they are elegant and efficient.
“The availability of incredible amounts of data has created an atmosphere of complexity. We are seeking for ways to deal with all this information.”
Are we in a golden age of infographics right now?
That is a great vision! I think that we are currently seeing the early days of such an age. There are a few highly professional blogs such as Andrew Vande Moere’s infosthetics.com or Manuel Lima’s visualcomplexity.com which are great day-to-day-guides through the myriad new projects that are published every day.
Our book, on the other hand, provides a longer lasting historical perspective. The digital revolution is happening before our very eyes – every day we learn about new devices, new software, new technologies.
We will continue to deal with big amounts of data and the need for smart information visualisation is ever more growing. So I expect that we will see many great works of information visualisation in the years to come, and I am thrilled to follow up on what’s happening in the field.