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June 15, 2010 6:59 AM   Subscribe

Information is beautiful : 30 examples of creative infography
posted by Gyan (38 comments total) 70 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm kind of still freaking out over this World Cup Schedule Interactive Schedule Thinger.
posted by TomMelee at 7:03 AM on June 15, 2010 [8 favorites]


If you're into this stuff and you don't know who Edward Tufte is, prepare to have your mind blown...
posted by onalark at 7:11 AM on June 15, 2010


Also, nice link!
posted by onalark at 7:12 AM on June 15, 2010


Most of those are stunningly beautiful, it's a shame they included some beautiful-but-incomprehensible graphs. Love the simplicity of How the Fire Spread. Thanks for the link.
posted by shinybaum at 7:12 AM on June 15, 2010


There's a wide quality latitude here. Some of these make the information easier to understand and some really obscure what they intend to represent.

Like the first one, for instance. By rendering the ancient Hebrew cosmology as a concrete material reality it might inadvertently miss the symbolic and metaphorical valences of that described universe; by making the scripture literal, it may actually impoverish the meaning of the stories to a casual viewer. Meanwhile, entries like the second item are abstruse at first but interesting to study in depth. The seasonal food chart is pretty cool. I suppose that a set of data without a meaningful pattern is not the best candidate for this sort of treatment, like the Beatles thing, which (maybe this is just me not being a visual learner) I found almost perversely useless in making some kind of sense out the information the designer used.

So I guess what I'm saying is that just because we can represent data visually, doesn't mean, etc.
posted by clockzero at 7:22 AM on June 15, 2010


Anybody want to spot me £30 and some 3D glasses for that Destroyer's Rubies poster?
posted by Beardman at 7:23 AM on June 15, 2010


These are indeed beautiful and creative, but, except for a couple of them, I have some doubts about their ability to actually convey information. They're exercises in design and typography rather than infographics.
posted by elgilito at 7:31 AM on June 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


What elgilito said. Definitely pretty. Mostly opaque, as far as communicating data clearly, though.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:37 AM on June 15, 2010


Some of these are great. Others are exactly what elgilito said. Still others are frustration engines because the designers either intentionally or unintentionally kept me from having any way to view them at a large enough level to actually read them.

RAGE.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:39 AM on June 15, 2010


Yeah, this site is heavy on the beautiful and light on the information. For example, the infographic they picked for the cover of their book is probably one of the worst as far as conveying information goes. It's very hard to parse.
posted by zsazsa at 7:47 AM on June 15, 2010


I love the Beatles chart set, especially the Song Key by album one. Its also great to be able to see how song authorship changed over time. I have to say though, the self-reference chart is a little much for me. From what I've read, the Beatles often used lyrics just because they fit. In some cases, like "Hey Jude", they actually used the dummy lyrics (Paul assumed he'd be replacing a lot of them but John declared them perfect on first listening). And I suspect that most of the self referencing was to poke fun at the silliness of fans who read way too much into their lyrics. Apparently, one of the lines in "I Am The Walrus" come from John learning that the primary school teacher who once berated him as a bad student was now teaching analysis of Beatles lyrics in his class! Its the "expert, textpert" line, I believe.
posted by syntaxbad at 7:48 AM on June 15, 2010


Is there a reason a lot of these remind me of Soviet propaganda posters?
posted by Sweetdefenestration at 7:51 AM on June 15, 2010


A while back I got into the information graphics of Gerd Arntz. I had originally become interested in his more satirical work as part of the Cologne school, but I also discovered that he, along with Otto Neurath, pretty much invented the Isotype.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:54 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


How do you pronounce that, anyway? Is it like info-graphy? Or in-fog-raphy?
posted by Mizu at 8:01 AM on June 15, 2010


infographics : design :: amusement parks : architecture
posted by oulipian at 8:03 AM on June 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


What is really amazing is that people continually ignore Tufte's suggestions. "Ah, this graph is boring! It'd be much better if we conveyed one variable three different ways and ignored two others! Let's use the area of a circle to illustrate a finely-grained value, even though people can't actually differentiate between two different areas in that way!"
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:20 AM on June 15, 2010


Tufte's suggestions are only relevant if you are trying to convey information. If your goal is merely to display it artfully and you don't care about comprehension, then he has little to offer you. It's not clear to me that (easy or immediate) comprehension is high on these folks' list of priorities. Without meaning to sound uncharitable, I think they want their audience to ponder the design for awhile and then compliment its cleverness. Tufte isn't about compliments; he's about not getting in the way of communication.
posted by cribcage at 8:48 AM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Probably a fair assessment of their motivations, cribcage. I'd just like to see "infographics" that actually convey information, particularly in publications like news magazines. I feel that this is an increasingly important field going forward—we face ever-increasing amounts of information, and [well-designed] graphics are one of the best ways we can cope with them.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:52 AM on June 15, 2010


Total OG shit yo
posted by clockzero at 8:55 AM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ah, just when I got Royksopp out of my head. Information is beautiful...nice post!
posted by samsara at 9:48 AM on June 15, 2010


Some lovely stuff here. The best EVAR "info"graphics, though, come from Paul Laffoley.
posted by slogger at 9:57 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Minard's Flow Map of Napoleon's March on Moscow put together with Google maps is also quite good.
Via: A Tour through the Visualization Zoo
posted by PHINC at 10:12 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can y'all make out the Destroyer poster? I can't read that at all. Embiggen plz?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:14 AM on June 15, 2010


I looked at #20 and now Timecube makes sense. <=O
posted by Eideteker at 11:42 AM on June 15, 2010


Too bad most of these are not scanned large enough to actually see the info.
posted by special-k at 12:06 PM on June 15, 2010


Related: Victorian Infographics.

My favorite.
posted by special-k at 12:08 PM on June 15, 2010


Related: Victorian Infographics.

now with link.
posted by special-k at 12:08 PM on June 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


/kisses special-k
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:18 PM on June 15, 2010


*blushes*
posted by special-k at 12:24 PM on June 15, 2010


What is really amazing is that people continually ignore Tufte's suggestions.

Honestly? Tufte is one dude, with one very extreme position. And he has very valuable things to say, but he is kinda like Jakob Nielsen with his hostility to design & prettiness, and sometimes he's right and sometimes he's wrong. For instance, some work has shown that chart junk helps people remember your message. I would argue it should be tasteful chart junk but NONE. EVER. is an example of something Tufte is a little ridiculous about.

Likewise this is far more interesting and clear than that Napoleon march chart, whatever Tufte fanboys may think. (Seriously, Tufte is amazing but he one, often wrong, dude.)
posted by dame at 12:34 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


dame, "remembering a message" generally isn't the purpose of a chart. Charts are reference material. Approaching them as marketing is a different issue.

As for the poster, well, I'd like to see it in something resembling a readable format before I judge it—but from what I can see it doesn't look particularly compelling. (I hate stacked bars; what are you telling me by saying 26 and 74? You could easily say "74%" and I could infer the inverse 26%...)

I think what Tufte is doing (and what Tufte "fanboys" advocate) is attempting to arrive at a theory of information presentation which functions primarily as informational presentation rather than as a marketing piece or design-wank.
posted by sonic meat machine at 12:59 PM on June 15, 2010


Right. Which is why it sucks. Because normal people want the inverse shown (aka don't want to do math) and want it to be pretty and show people charts so they remember some of the data. Tufte may be the ne plus ultra for a small group of people who think as much information and as little decoration as possible is the goal. But for a lot of people, and frankly most of the people cited in the post, that is not the case.
posted by dame at 1:31 PM on June 15, 2010


Normal people want candy and soothing words. They want to be told what to think, they don't want to have to look at data and think through it themselves. Thinking for yourself sucks, man, it sucks.

I think you're wrong. Not just in my exaggerated version of what you said -- I think you're wrong in your own words. But even if you are right, why call these infographics? That makes it sound too much like an earnest attempt to display information. Why not call it "infocandy" or something like that? If you want toy versions of information display, that's fine, really, but don't pretend it's something else.
posted by Someday Bum at 3:55 PM on June 15, 2010


Or maybe that's too much.

I think there are two camps on infographics. There's the "hey, whatever, man" camp (not wholly meant to be disparaging -- it's an almost-direct quote from a comment I saw elsewhere -- but partially meant to be disparaging because I'm not in this camp) where the goal is entertainment, basically, or to present the author's own conclusions. For the other camp of people the goal is the information itself, presented clearly, in a way that is easy to interpret and use. These are not completely disparate categories. When you get an infographic that displays information well and honestly, and is fun to look at it, it's a really great thing.

I don't wholly dislike the entertainment type. I like some of them, but I like them as entertainment. I don't much care for the infographics that either visually mimic the information-as-goal type, or really believe they are in that camp, but really are not. These are the ones that get the most complaints, because as information displays they are ineffective. They'll often get in the way of their data, represent it inaccurately, or make way too big a deal out of really small pieces of information. In short, when they act like their purpose is information display, they are judged on those terms.
posted by Someday Bum at 4:40 PM on June 15, 2010


clockzero, I was going to post that very chart (well, the French original). Charles Joseph Minard, the French engineer who created it, was also important in popularizing the pie chart.

From the Wikipedia article on Minard:
"Étienne-Jules Marey first called notice to this dramatic depiction of the terrible fate of Napoleon's army in the Russian campaign, saying it 'defies the pen of the historian in its brutal eloquence'. Edward Tufte says it 'may well be the best statistical graphic ever drawn' and uses it as a prime example in The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. And Howard Wainer also identified this as a gem of information graphics, nominating it as the 'World's Champion Graph'."
posted by dhens at 8:49 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the background, dhens. I probably should have contextualized more.
posted by clockzero at 1:19 PM on June 16, 2010


Manuel Lima's Visual Complexity "intends to be a unified resource space for anyone interested in the visualization of complex networks. The project's main goal is to leverage a critical understanding of different visualization methods, across a series of disciplines, as diverse as Biology, Social Networks or the World Wide Web."
posted by Jennifer S. at 3:20 PM on June 16, 2010


No problem, clockzero. I actually use that graph when I teach the Napoleonic invasion of Russia in my Western Civ course.
posted by dhens at 9:20 PM on June 17, 2010


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