Martin Robinson, Co-Founder: 'Digital infographics in the big data era'

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A review of three infographic books in the Economist July 6 issue has an interesting take on the topic.

Infographics : Winds of change “ A revolution is taking place in how to visualize information."

In the late 1700s William Playfair, a Scottish engineer, created the bar chart, pie chart and line graph. These amounted to visual breakthroughs, innovations that allowed people to see patterns in data they would otherwise have missed if they just stared at long tables of numbers.

Now we're in the Big Data era. There are many, many essays from around the world that there is more information than ever, and that an extraordinary revolution is taking place in business, academia, government, healthcare and everyday life. The search for fresh and enlightened ways to help people absorb it is driving innovation. A new generation of statisticians and designers often the same person are working on computer technologies and visual techniques that will depict data at scales and in forms previously unimaginable. The simple line graph and pie chart are being supplemented by visuals such as colorful, animated bubble charts, which can present more variables. Three-dimensional network diagrams show ratios and relationships that were impossible to depict before.

Infographics have gained in popularity over the past half-decade, due primarily to the sharing of information on public social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and, more recently, Pinterest.

In fact, search engine inquiries for the term infographics have increased in recent years by a wide margin due to their success in delivering information quickly and enticing internet audiences to share them with their friends. An effective infographic grabs your attention and keeps it just long enough to deliver an important message or teach you important information.

It's important that an infographic design presents data or knowledge in graphic visual form both quickly and clearly, in a memorable way that people will want to share with their social contacts. Don't just generate a basic bar graph or chart inside a software application, throw in your data, and expect anyone to be super excited about it. One example would be having 3-D skyscrapers representing the number of construction projects completed in the past decade, showing the growing trend as each skyscraper reaches higher on the graph.

Of the three book review on the topic, as always with the Economist it is the ending paragraph that I found the most interesting:

But should these books have been published on paper at all? Today's most impressive works, like Wind Map, were created to be online. Future infographics will be digital, data will stream in real-time and viewers interactions will determine what is presented. When this happens, what constitutes a good infographic will change. The revolution has just begun.

 

The vanguard of that revolution is an emerging class of digital online tools that lets users build information rich and engaging storydashboards-interactive datavisualization dashboards combined with infographics. These tools include infographic palettes and chart libraries allowing users to build storydashboards using simple and intuitive point-and-click designer tools. Fed by streaming big data and with advanced precognitive analytics enabling extrapolation, people can use storydashboards to predict the outcome of important decisions whether they are in business, academia, government, and healthcare or in their everyday life.

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