Infographics or “Data Visualization” seem so contemporary, so of the moment and recently arrived, that it’s surprising they’ve been around as long as printed newspapers. Longer if you count Egyptian hieroglyphics and the cave paintings of Lascaux, not to mention maps, which have existed for more than 8,000 years.
By visualizing information, we turn it into a “landscape” that your eyes can absorb easily, a sort of information map, and as we know a map is just what you need when you are lost.
Data visualization is having a big moment during the COVID-19 pandemic, It has played an important role in sharing information and educating the population, not only because it is a compelling way to communicate data, but also because it transmits a sense of truth and order–so important during uncertain times.
Designers are embracing the current information avalanche as their opportunity to shine, playing the role of interpreters. Their skills place them in an enviable position, poised to create clear, essential communications.
But design is not where things start. First, it is crucial to organize and evaluate all the data, distilling the information to the simplest and clearest concept. Next step is to establish a hierarchy, isolating what’s important, and simplifying it to the most common denominator. Raw numbers are just that — numbers. Simply making those numbers look nice as data visualizations doesn’t convey the meaning of the data. Instead of asking “what is the data?” the designer should ask “what is the story?”. The graphics should help make the data understandable and give it meaning.
As with all difficult feats that skilled people make look so easy, you know that your data visualization of complicated content is successful when the viewer’s reaction is “This is so simple!”