The Evolution of the Infographic: Where It Started, Where It Is and Where It’s Going

Infographics are an ever popular way of displaying data in a unique format to entice readers and they are a fantastic piece of content for bloggers to create for their chosen niches/subjects. Only increasing in popularity in the social media age, these visual content platforms are continuing to grow and adapt with changing times but where did they come from and where are they going? Payman Taei, creator of Visme, a tool to create your own unique version explores the evolution of the infographic, discusses how to create them yourself and where infographics are headed in the future…

Many people don’t realise that infographics have actually been around a great deal longer than social media.

These days, it’s incredibly common to scroll through Twitter each day and see dozens of compelling, visual representations of data staring back at you. The format itself, however, is one that has been honed by time.

At their core, infographics are just data visualisation mediums. They’re graphical representations of data like statistics or other information that is intended to be presented in a sleek, sophisticated and (most importantly) clear way.

They may not have always been the mass communication medium that they’ve evolved into, but the earliest examples of infographics that we have actually do share quite a bit in common with one that you may have seen earlier today.

The Time Honoured Power of Visual Content

One of the major reasons why infographics and similar types of visual content are so popular in the first place has to do with the way the human brain works. Human beings are, by their nature, visually driven. An incredible 70% of all sensory receptors in your body are located in your eyes, which goes a long way towards explaining why about half of all brain power used in a given moment is dedicated to visual processing.

When given the choice between experiencing a message in text versus experiencing it visually, humans will choose the visual option nearly every time.

One study revealed that even just varying the colours attached to those visuals can increase someone’s willingness to read it by roughly 80%. Now, think about how attractive and colourful infographics usually are and you begin to get an idea of why the format has been around for so long.

The Journey of the Infographic: How Far We’ve Come

Though it wasn’t called an infographic, the first example of data visualisation that shares a lot with the format itself dates all the way back to 1626, when Christoph Scheiner published a book about the rotation of the sun. Knowing that he was working with incredibly dense material, he used illustrations and charts to give readers a better sense of what he was talking about.

As far back as 1857, people like Florence Nightingale were also using the format to help achieve their goals. Nightingale in particular paired graphics with information in a way that allowed her to get Queen Victoria to improve the conditions in military hospitals of the day.

Things took another dramatic leap in the early 20th century, when people like Gerd Arntz and Augustin Tschinkel developed a new type of art design that was specifically focused on communicating information.

They weren’t just concerned with data visualisation. They saw the specific art they were creating as political action. They weren’t creating art in service of politics, but rather saw their art AS politics. Think about the last political-driven infographic you’ve seen and realise both how things have changed and how things have remained the same.

The key qualities that infographics have shared throughout time include important principles like data visualisation, design and the pillars of visual storytelling. Whether you’re talking about crude drawings on the wall of a cave discovered by archaeologists or that great infographic that just scrolled across your Facebook feed, these specific elements are always in place.

The key is to understand the importance of balance in terms of all three. If you rely too heavily on data, you may be letting things like statistics speak for themselves – but you haven’t done yourself any favours in terms of crafting compelling visual content.

If you fall back too heavily on the principles of design you may have something that looks like a quality piece of digital marketing, but that really doesn’t have the story at the heart of it to grab hold of the attention of your viewers.

The Evolution of Infographic Tools

Equally impressive in the history of the infographic is the evolution of the tools we use to create them. In the 1600s, content creators had the tools of the day – paints, brushes, etc. In the early days of the digital revolution, people could use tools like Photoshop – but they came with a catch. They were powerful tools, but hardly built to take advantage of this specific format itself. It really wasn’t that different from the old “paint brush” method because you still had to bend your tools to fit the design principles you were trying to take advantage of.

Flash forward to today and we have tools like Visme that are specifically built with infographics (and other types of visual content like presentations) in mind. Visme which I founded to help users communicate visually, lets you pick from any number of customisable templates, giving yourself a framework to begin from that our ancestors then had. You can then arrange your information in a way that both caters to your audience AND to your message at the same time.

You can manipulate your data in any visual way that you want, but a tool like Visme helps to make sure that your eye is always on the prize, so to speak. It’s a tool built to make sure that you always achieve that perfect balance between design, data and story, no matter what.

The Future Starts Now

With technology like virtual and augmented reality poised to infiltrate the homes of people around the world, it’s actually fairly easy to see where the infographic is going. There will come a day not too far from now where your readers don’t just get to see data visualisation – they can manipulate it on their own. Infographics will become truly interactive, allowing readers to become a natural extension of the creation process.

Yet at the same time, the core pillars of the format will remain unchanged. The information we’re sharing may change and the internet has certainly done a great deal to boost the popularity of the format, but at the end of the day human beings are visual creatures. They always have been and they always will be and we need to adapt our communication to appeal to the way our brains choose to process data: visually.

 

 

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