What is an infographic?

The most common definition of Infographic describes it simply as a visual representation of information and data. By combining elements of text image, chart, diagram and, more recently, video, an infographic is an effective tool to present data and explain complex issues in a way that can quickly lead to insight and better understanding.

An infographic is:

  • A data-rich visualization of a story.
  • A tool to educate and inform.
  • A way to build brand awareness.

an infographic is a data rich visualization of a story

Despite its recent mainstream popularity, Infographics have been used in newsrooms across the world for many years, under the “umbrella” of Editorial Design.

In the past few years, the news industry has seen also the rise of data journalism and storytelling with data, while the Internet has present itself as the perfect platform for more complex data based narratives and visualizations.

According to Jaime Serra, one of the most influential infographic designer in the world for the past two decades -, an infographic is “a form of communication that uses visual language and text. Both languages are complementary, part of a whole, and therefore can’t be understood when separate”.

The term “infographics” has expanded to many industries in the past decade, becoming a powerful communication tool for businesses, governments and educational institutions. There's a whole new audience of professionals interested in presenting data in a more compelling, insightful and engaging way.

What makes a good infographic

what makes a good infographic

Infographics have the power to present complex data in a concise, highly visual way. When done right, infographics tell data stories effectively by making information easy to digest, educational, and engaging

Good infographics need to be focused with a clear idea of who the target audience is and what the core message will be. Start with a powerful title. Researchers at MIT conducted an eye-tracking study to determine how people process infographic information. They found that good headlines are the key to audience retention. They draw your viewer in, explain the journey they are about to go on, and make them curious to learn more.

Unlike individual charts and graphs, infographics focus on the flow of multiple visual elements.

A good infographic is like a good story.

It has the ability to walk you through different phases, offering you facts and intriguing visuals along the way. You can control the flow of your infographic using numbers, headers, color, white space, pictures, and of course - charts.

Your number one job is to show people the data. This is why you should aim to have the proper balance of charts and visual elements. While your data might work with multiple chart types, it’s up to you to select the one that ensures your message is clear and accurate. Always follow best charting practices.

The key thing to remember when designing infographics is that simplicity is key.

Unless you know how to design complex data visualizations, our best advice is to keep it simple. You don’t want to make your reader work harder than they have to in order to understand your work. A busy visual isn’t fun to look at and often distracts from the message.

Examples of infographics

infographic examples

You can find our favourite collection of infographics here. Every week we explore the data that is changing our world and create a new insightful infographic.

The history of infographics

Have you ever wondered about the origins of infographics?

The history of infographics is full of incredible stories marked by major events, led by a few key players.

The following map from Info we Trust guides you through the long history of visual representation of Information.

History of infographics

We’d like to introduce you to some of the amazing men and women who paved the way by combining art, science, and statistics.

Ancient graphics

Cave paintings

There’s little discussion around the fact cavemen were the first infographic designers. They turned everyday life into images depicting births, battles, wildlife, deaths, and celebrations. One of the more famous cave painting sites was discovered in France. The Lascaux paintings are estimated to be around 17,300 years old.

Cave Paintings

Egyptian hieroglyphs

Egyptian hieroglyphs were a formal writing system used by the ancient Egyptians that used symbols to illustrate words, letters, and concepts. They were a unique but widely used and accepted form of communication, dating back to 3000 BC. These hieroglyphs mainly depicted life, work, and religion.

Egyptian Hieroglyphs

Early players

William Playfair

William Playfair is considered the father of statistical graphics, having invented the line and bar chart we use so often today. He is also credited with having created the area and pie chart. Playfair was a Scottish engineer and political economist who published The Commercial and Political Atlas in 1786.

William Playfair

Edmond Halley

Edmond Halley was an English astronomer, geophysicist, mathematician, meteorologist, and physicist who is best known for computing the orbit of Halley’s Comet. Halley developed the use of contour lines on maps to connect and describe areas that display differences in atmospheric conditions from place to place.

Edmond Halley

Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale is famous for her work as a nurse during the Crimean War, but she was also a data journalist. She realized soldiers were dying from poor sanitation and malnutrition, so she kept meticulous records of the death tolls in the hospitals and visualized the data. Her ‘coxcomb’ or ‘rose’ diagrams helped her fight for better hospital conditions and ultimately save lives.

20th century

Alfred Leete

Alfred Leete was a British graphic artist whose work used many of the visual and data elements we see in infographics today. As a commercial artist, he designed multiple posters and advertisements, most notably his famous wartime propaganda for the London Opinion.

Alfred Leete

Otl Aicher

Otl Aicher was a German graphic designer and topographer best known for designing pictograms for the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. His simplified pictograms became a universal form of communication, appearing on many street signs we see today.

Otl Aicher

Peter Sullivan

Peter Sullivan was a British graphic designer best known for infographics he created for The Sunday Times in the 1970’s, 80’s, and 90’s. His book Newspaper Graphics is still one of the few books focusing on information graphics in newspapers.

Peter Sullivan

 

Charts and infographics have fully invaded our digital lives. Tools like Infogram make it easy to create beautiful, interactive infographics of your own.