Infographics: The Graphic Visual Explosion
Like many social fans and practitioners, I enjoy how clever and informative infographics can be, and try to collect the ones I like on Pinterest. Today's find was this one about which profession drinks the most coffee. It seemed quite fitting, since
1) I love coffee,
2) I drink a lot of coffee, and
3) my profession overlaps both categories 2 and 4.
Once I started down this blog path, I googled "infographics" to get some sense of how many infographics have been created in the last couple of years and if someone has counted/cataloged them. 14 million results were returned for my search. Yes, 14 million. Seriously? And the quick survey I took of the links showed that some of them were for multiple infographics.
So after Google, my next stop was Wikipedia of course, which included this definition:
Information graphics or infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly. They can improve cognition by utilizing graphics to enhance the human visual system’s ability to see patterns and trends. The process of creating infographics can be referred to as data visualization, information design and information architecture.
It made me think of a class I took years ago that used two of Edward R. Tufte's books: Envisioning Information and The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. They're beautifully printed books, but they haven't left my bookshelf in years before tonight. (I'm going to look through them this weekend now that they've caught my eye again.)
UX and design practitioners are probably very familiar with his work, but I looked him up and was amazed at his expertise and list of works. (I don't think I appreciated the one-day course I took those many years ago nearly enough.)
I remember very little about the class, but what I remember clearly is the poster we received of Napoleon's March of 1812, a graphic by Charles Joseph Minard, which was published in 1869. I liked it so much that I had it mounted and framed, and still have it hanging on a wall in my house. I pulled it down to take a fresh look at it, and I'm impressed all over again.
Tufte's website states about Minard's work: "Probably the best statistical graphic ever drawn, this map by Charles Joseph Minard portrays the losses suffered by Napoleon's army in the Russian campaign of 1812."
The poster includes this description in the legend: "Six variables are plotted: the size of the army, its location on a two-dimensional surface, direction of the army's movement, and temperature on various dates during the retreat from Moscow."
Image 1 source: http://img.gawkerassets.com/img/180x5gza1jl9rjpg/original.jpg
Image 2 source: http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/posters
Alt text for image 2 : <This information is included on the poster>
Napoleon's March to Moscow The War of 1812
This classic of Charles Joseph Manard (1781 - 1870), the French engineer, shows the terrible fate of Napoleon's army in Russia. Described by E. J. Marey as seeming to defy the pen of the historian by its brutal eloquence, this combination of data map and time-series, drawn in 1861, portrays the devastating losses supffered in Napoleon's Russian campaign of 1812. Beginning at the left on the Polish-Russian border near the Neimen River, the thick band shows the size of the army (422,000 men) as it invaded Russia in June 1812. The width of the band indicates the size of th army at each place on the map. In September, the army reached Moscow, which was by then sacked and deserted, with 100,000 men. The path of Napoleon's retreat from Moscow is depicted by the darker, lower band, which is linked to a temperature scale and dates at the bottom of the chart. It was a bitterly cold winter, and many froze on the march out of Russia. As the graphic shows, the crossing of the Berezina River was a diasaster, and the army finally struggled back into Poland with only 10,000 men remaining. Also shown are the movements of auxiliary troops, as they sought to protect the rear and the flank of th advancing army. Minard's graphic tells a rich, coherent story with its multivariate data, far more enlightening than just a single number bouncing along over time. Six variables are plotted: the size of the army, its location on a two-dimensional surface, direction of the army's movement, and temperature on various dates during the retreat from Moscow