Infographics: The Graphic Visual Explosion

Top 15 heaviest coffee drinkers. 1. Scientist/Lab Technician 2. Marketing/PR Professional 3. Education Administrator 4. Editor/Writer 5. Healthcare Administrator 6. Physician 7. Food Preparer 8. Professor 9. Social Worker 10. Financial Professional 11. Personal Caretaker 12. Human Resources Benefits Coordinator 13. Nurse 14. Government Professional 15. Skilled Tradesperson  Coffee consumption trends in the workplace 46% of US workers claims that they are less productive without coffee. 61% of the workers who need coffee to get through their day drinks 2 cups or more each day. 49% admits to needing coffee while on the job in the Northeast where the workday coffee ritual is the strongest.  Editors/writers, government professionals, teachers are most likely to add flavor to their coffee. Human resources professionals & Personal caretakers are most liekly to enjoy their coffee with crea and sugar. Judges, attorneys, Hotel workers are most likely to take their coffee black.
The exponential growth of social media channels and the popularity of graphics and visuals on those channels has spawned a new visual format on steroids with a new name: infographics.

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."

The alt text field on this blog post software isn't long enough to include the legend on the graphic. so it's at the bottom of the page.
Almost 150 years ago, Menard visualized, and created by hand, a complex visualization that is as compelling today as it was then. I'm a little less impressed by the coffee consumption infographic from this morning, just because it is one-dimensional, and pales in comparison to Menard's masterpiece. I'll continue to be amused by today's infographics, but now that I've revisited this classic, it's going to take a lot more to impress me.

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