• Ju_information_graphics_13heroe
    Sam Potts: Geek Love for The New York Times (2008) (detail)
Graphic Design

We speak to Sandra Rendgen about her amazing new book investigating infographics

Posted by Rob Alderson,

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.

  • Ju_information_graphics_01

    Alessandra Kalko: The Greatest Curiosities of the Human Body for Mundo Estranho (2008)

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.”

Sandra Randgen

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.

  • Ju_information_graphics_02

    Bryan Christie/Joe Lertola: Missions to Mars for IEEE Spectrum (2009)

  • Ju_information_graphics_03

    Andrew Effendy: The Digital Dump for Good (2010)

  • Ju_information_graphics_09

    Jenny Ridley: Definitive Atlas of UK Government Spending for The Guardian (2008)

  • Ju_information_graphics_08

    Peter Grundy: Body Parts for Esquire

  • Ju_information_graphics_11

    Nigel Holmes: Two Mindsets for Stanfrod

  • Ju_information_graphics_12

    Ben Gibson/Patrick Mulligan: The Very Many Varieties of Beer

  • Ju_information_graphics_13

    Sam Potts: Geek Love for The New York Times (2008)

  • Ju_information_graphics_14

    Torgeir Husevaag: Medallandssandur (2010)

  • Ju_information_graphics

    Sandra Rendgen: Information Graphics (Taschen, 2012)

Ra

Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Graphic Design View Archive

  1. List

    Marcello Velho is one of a school of graphic artists subverting the forms of internet art that we’re becoming used to seeing, and doing something completely unanticipated with them. His abstract compositions are experimental and ambiguous, but that’s exactly what makes them exciting. He’s a pretty dab hand at design too, working on magazine covers, art directing features and just generally applying his magic touch wherever it’s needed. It’s only a matter of time until a global fashion brand with a wildly cool following happens upon his work and immediately has him applying his learned eye to look books, textile design and event invitations. Just for the record though, we got here first, yeah?

  2. List

    Behold! Dutch illustrator and designer Julian Sirre has a portfolio packed to the gunnels with beautiful futuristic design. His posters and prints take inspiration from 80s sci-fi, Japanese printmaking and superhero comics, all amalgamated into a wholly unique visual language. He’s worked for Dutch science fiction magazines, London venues and a variety of extraordinary exhibitions including a group show with Jordy Van Den Niewendijk, Viktor Hachmang and Robin van Wijk – all exceptionally cool dudes.

  3. List

    Battersea Power Station is one of my favourite buildings in London (you can add that to the list of things-you-don’t-care-about-which-I-tell-you-anyway-in-these-posts if you like). Anyway this summer it’s hosting the Everyman Cinema and east London’s Bread Collective was brought in to create the branding and hand-paint all the on-site signage. Bread has previous when it comes to large scale design work that packs a personality-filled punch and it’s great to see them unleash their talents on such a famous landmark. The bright and lively visuals juxtapose neatly with their industrial surroundings and there’s a consistency that ties the site together without feeling sterile.

  4. List

    My favourite thing about Paris-based design studio Twice is that they continually combine texture and colour in such a way that I’m practically banging my hands into my computer screen with wanting to hold their publications in my hands. That’s the trouble with tactility – it’s not practical – but that shouldn’t mean designers abandon it altogether in favour of a wipe-clean, stark, sterile aesthetic that makes us lose all hope in print.

  5. List

    I was lucky enough to visit Istanbul for its inaugural design biennale back in 2012 and although I was blown away by its creative scene, I didn’t come across too much graphic design. Rummaging through Studio Sarp Sozdinler’s website this week, I had the nagging feeling that I might have missed out.

  6. List

    Belgian graphic designer Broos Stoffels has it all; great poster designs, great typefaces, great Dance Organ-powered drawing machine for the creation of custom vinyl sleeves – no really! The young designer is a former student of Sint Lucas in Ghent, a institution with proven design pedigree, and has spent the last few years honing his practical and conceptual skills into a fantastically coherent body of work.

  7. List

    If you aren’t familiar with The Casual Optimist blog about publishing and book culture then it’s well worth checking out (I’ll wait). Anyway last week its author shared these amazing posters created by the leading German graphic designer Gunter Rambow for the S. Fischer Verlag publishing house back in the 1970s. What’s interesting is that some of them tiptoe right up to the edge of being gimmicky, but always stay the right side of the line thanks to Gunter’s unerring image-making brilliance. I really can’t get enough of these.

  8. List

    When a studio does everything it can to get to the very root of a client’s working philosophy, it often leads to the most interesting and effective identity design. This is definitely true of Toronto-based studio Blok Design’s work for Dallas film production company Lucky 21. Created to mark the company’s new venture – “taking on the highly competitive LA market” – the identity takes into account the brand’s character, which the studio describes as “full of humour and fiercely passionate” to create a set of visuals that fall close to home.

  9. List-2

    Illustrator and longtime mate of ours Michael Willis is straying away from illustration and into something altogether more design-focussed. The elements at the heart of his images are the same; placing retro and contemporary influences side-by-side to create something so contemporary that it feels ahead of its time. He’s been working recently with Mood NYC, providing photographic manipulation and graphic treatment for their look book as well as helping create an overarching aesthetic for the brand, one which evades the recurring trends and repetitive styles that seem to permeate many designers’ portfolios.

  10. List

    Three years ago Milan studio Leftloft were commissioned to help iconic Italian football club Inter Milan with a ticket sales push, but the relationship developed into something much more comprehensive. Here art director Francesco Cavalli tells us how they came to lead an extensive rebranding of the whole club, from a new crest and a bespoke serif typeface to an exhaustive style guide for use across print and digital.

  11. List

    As of 6.30pm last night Airbnb looks a little classier. Having spent the past seven years growing a vast community of country-hopping collaborators, the world’s largest online accommodation marketplace has decided it’s time for a change. Gone is the awkward, dated logo that still reminds me of a bad ice cream parlour, likewise the cold, clinical blue that serves as the accent colour for all San Franciscan startups; and in its place is something entirely more exciting.

  12. List

    Massimo Vignelli was one of the most important graphic designers of his generation and his death in May affected the creative community very strongly and very immediately. The tributes poured in (some of which we included in our piece here) but for some the response to his passing would take a little longer to formulate. So it was with Colorado-based studio Berger & Föhr, who began this set of tribute posters when they first learned of his illness.

  13. List

    In our first feature on Shillington College we looked at why its founder was compelled to create a new kind of graphic design education to better prepare graduates for the working world. But how does the college pursue this aim in practical everyday terms, achieving what can take several years into other institutions in a matter of mere months? To find out we asked the people who make it happen– the teachers themselves. So we quizzed US director Holly Karlsson, Melbourne lecturer Carlos Chavez, Manchester lecturer Jeffrey Bowman and senior London lecturer Corrie Anderson. Here’s what they had to say…