Infographics: the gourmet or fast food version?

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Great cuisine is an art form with a purpose – to make us feel good and full. I had this amazing dessert in a Les Oliviers in the South of France over the Christmas holidays. It’s made of pineapple, passion fruit, cream, sugar and probably plenty of other ingredients – each of them are simple enough to find in a grocery story yet putting it all together into a tasty post-dinner experience takes skill and a bit of creativity. Its the same way we can think of infographics and the ability to take content, data, and other information and turn it into some sort of shape and visual experience that is easy and enjoyable to consume.

The Courrier international, a French newspaper that compiles stories from around the world, featured a special edition on infographics. While I found most of the infographics in the newspaper, which highlighted issues like employment, health, politics, and technology, a little too complicated to understand at first glance, the articles on the how, what, and why of infographics were very insightful.

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The collection of articles (all translated in to French) is a great primer to data visualization and what it means in an increasing visual and data-driven world. The topics included analyzing the link between seeing and thinking, visualizations as tools for the mind, the use of Tweets to forecast getting the flu, and the “children of Big Data“.

Some big names in the field of data visualization and infographic design mentioned in the articles include:

  • Paolo Ciuccarelli – Associate Professor at Politecnico di Milano, he teaches at the Faculty of Design in the Communication Design master degree and part of DensityDesign, a Research Lab in the Design Department of the Politecnico di Milano.
  • Alberto Cairo – teaches Information Graphics and Visualization at the School of Communication at the University of Miami and is the author of The Functional Art: An introduction to information graphics and visualization
  • David McCandless – a London-based author, data-journalist and information designer, working across print, advertising, TV and web, and author of “Information is Beautiful“.

Like food, there’s always going to be both the fast and gourmet versions. It’s a toss up as to which would be better. Gourmet food is always nice to the palate but takes a lot of time and energy to prepare. Fast food might not be the healthiest option but it’s easily accessible. Infographics are the same – do we want information that just scratches the surface or more in-depth analysis – it all really depends on what they are trying to communicate and to whom. Graphics and design are nice but if they’re not achieving its aim (ex. education, awareness, behavior change, etc…) maybe there are other better mediums?

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