Over the last century, the society has rapidly grown in information creation and sharing with information technology taking the world to the information age. The growth in information sharing has led to the development of one of the most powerful and fastest growing industries in the world with devices such as cell phones, tablets, and pagers entering the market. These industries have greatly diversified the way people convey and receive information with the speed of doing this task increasing over the years.
The expression of information in the text form has proved to be less appealing to people over the centuries. Fewer people have the interest to read texts (Wurman, 1997, p. 5). With the significantly large amounts of information that the current generation is being bombarded with, it has become important to present the information as clearly as possible in the fastest way possible.
The use of plain text in the presentation of information has several disadvantages over the presentation of the same information using Infographics. To begin with, the visual appearance of plain text does not encourage the reader to continue reading while infographics draw the reader into the intended message.
As Wildbur and Burke reveal, “a picture is worth a thousand words’, and it is proven that people are able to remember messages that are presented in picture form” (1998, p. 12). For the presentation of new and crucial information, the traditional use of graphs and test is not enough to enable the reader to remember the information (Tufte, 1990, p. 23).
However, the development of infographics has led to ease in the presentation of this form of information as evidenced by Fukushi (2009, p. 11). The ability of a reader or a person for which information is intended to remember is important in the present world, as the number of messages received in a single day is many. To enhance the memory for readers and other people targeted for information, the use of graphics has been utilised in literature with significant success (Tufte, 1997, p. 24).
The use of infographics in data presentation is not new. Many authors find it easy to convey information by using the method. One would wish to know what infographics is and what it entails. As the name suggests, information graphics is derived from ‘information’ and ‘graphics’. This essay discusses information graphics, its origin, development, styles, and elements.
Over the last two centuries, information graphics has changed from the original forms of lithographic posters to the current trends (Fukushi, 2009, p. 13). It is now common to experience advanced forms of information graphic in everyday life. The rate at which it is changing is commendable.
Some of the sites where information graphics are encountered include newspapers and magazines with televisions and computers taking it to a higher level. In the use of graphics, there are a number of ways to represent information. They include business graphics, factual graphics, expo graphics, planned graphics, locating graphics, presentation graphics, weather graphics, instruction graphics, and signal graphics (Wildbur, & Burke, 1998, p. 13).
The categorisation of these types of graphics is based on the purpose of the graphics, the size, the medium used, and time available in production. One formation may belong to several groups depending on criteria used in classification (Tufte, 1990, p. 24).
As revealed by Tufte, the making of posters and advertisements has led to the development of modern infographics with the initial posters being made around the 14th century with the invention of printing paper in Europe (1997, p. 24). Fukushi however confirms how the study of anthropology has revealed that some of the earliest graphics were in the prehistoric periods when man used cave paintings and markings on bone and boulders to express himself and or record his activities (2009, p. 11).
The graphics also represented seasons, chronological details, maps of the areas they lived, and the astronomical objects common to them (Tufte, 1990, p. 13). With the invention of writing, the representation of graphical information accelerated. Ever since this milestone, the coexistence of text and image is inseparable.
The modern application of infographics is inexhaustible with infographics having use in maps such as of the subway systems, presentation of information on slides, and the advertisement of people and products. The use of images in communication is a powerful tool. The brain is thought to integrate and organise information in the form of images as evidenced by Tufte (1990, p. 12).
In the understanding of ideas and information, seeing is a significant factor as it allows the individual to remember and make sense of the information. A distinction has been made in the past of infographics and information visualisation with professional suggesting that infographics is the presentation of information by the use of maps, statistical charts, and diagrams while information visualisation “offers visual tools that an audience can use to explore and analyse data sets” (Wurman, 1997, p. 20).
The meaning of this is, “where infographics tell stories designed by communicators, information visualisation helps readers to discover stories by themselves” (Wildbur, & Burke, 1998, p. 11).
According to some of the professionals, “…information graphics are non-pictorial graphics such as bar charts and line graphs, which depict attributes of entities and or relations among entities” (Tufte, 1997, p. 24). In the present generation, infographics have evolved from the basic intended goal of message communication to constitute a ‘form of language’ on its own (Wurman, 1997, p. 20).
The creation of infographics has led to the development of other related professions, which include information architecture, which is the process by which infographics are created. The progress made in the field of information architecture and infographics can be attributed to the development of new technology, which has led to simple use gadgets with a significantly large number of people being able to use them in the real life (Fukushi, 2009, p. 14).
The internet is perhaps the strongest tool that has helped in the propagation of infographics with a number of social sites such as twitter and Facebook allowing transfer of infographics between individuals. Another media that has contributed significantly in the present definition of infographics is print media presented most strongly by the newspapers (Wurman, 1997, p. 20).
In these means of communication and information transfer, Wildbur and Burke show how infographics are utilised in things such as weather prediction, statistical data presentation and map work (1998, p. 34). Some of these types of media are constituted entirely by infographics with books being the best examples (Tufte, 1990, p. 5). A modern use of infographics is made in maps where transit networks such as roads, railways, subways, and air routes are presented.
The present use for infographics is also in the teaching and training in institutions of learning where the students are taught using the methods. It is a common belief that the use of infographics in learning institutions improves learning and the performance of the students.
The current teaching methods are therefore constituent of years of research and improvement in information graphics. In the previous decades, especially after the invention of the printing press, the home of infographics was in the print media and particularly in the newspapers.
Information sharing methods
Apart from the use of infographics to convey information, other methods of doing it exist. They will then be looked at and compared to infographics.
The passing of information involves all human senses with the most utilised being the audio, the visual, smell, and touch. Of these senses, the various methods used for passing information are based on them. As Wildbur and Burke (1998) assert, the message to be communicated has to pass between the source and the receiver with an appropriate two-way process mode of passing it being chosen (p. 18).
The aim of the source of the message is to create a mental impression in the individual to whom the information is being conveyed. However, communication is said to have taken place when this impression occurs (Tufte, 1990, p. 23). Different forms of conveying information include simple gestures such as the handshake in Africa, the bowing down in Japan, and the passing of complex through the telephone.
With an improvement of technology, communication and passing of information has also changed with symbols and gestures being replaced by written words and other media. It is said that, on average, individuals spend around 70% of their active time passing information (Fukushi, 2009, p. 18).
In the passing of information, a significant contribution in the field of infographics has been from the newspaper USA Today, which has a history of using infographics in presentation of its news thus prompting other newspapers to copy it (Kane, 2003, p. 12). The use of posters as one of the original styles in infographics is also remarkable with the 20th century having millions being made (Wildbur, & Burke, 1998, p. 19).
Posters contain information in a simplified form. They are also used to capture the attention of the intended audience. The message is in most instances presented in an attractive and interesting way to allow the viewers to consider the contents (Wurman, 1997, p. 21). Wurman further asserts that a balance between text and the pictures in the posters has to be made to ensure that the two complement each other (1997, p. 21).
The other method that can be used in the representation of information is text method, which is applied either alone or with infographics. Where text is used alone to represent information, the person presenting the message has to struggle to create a mental picture in the recipient of the information and cause a transfer of this information.
The text can also be altered in a way that is more appealing to the reader, for instance, the use of different fonts, special colour effects, and literary skills. A combination of text and infographics is usually done with the infographics being used to convey messages that are effectively communicated only through seeing and not reading (Kane, 2003, p. 12). The text is used here to emphasise the information provided in the infographics to provide more information.
Another method of presenting information is the use of images. Kane describes the use of images to convey information as a powerful one since the speed at which information is presented is remarkable (2003, p. 12).
From a single image, the individual for whom the image is intended can interpret a number of messages. Some of the limitations to the use of images in infographics include the visual impairment of the intended subjects, lack of clarity in the presentation of the message, and existing personal viewing preferences such as in the web (Fukushi, 2009, p. 18).
To ensure that the information presented on images is clear and or creates effective communication, the use of text explaining the meaning of the images can be utilised (Wildbur, & Burke, 1998, p. 10). As Kane (2003) reveals, examples of images that can be used to present information include clip arts, photographs, and Excel charts (p. 12). Alongside these images, texts can be used to further help in interpreting the image, in the form of captions or alternative text description (Wildbur, & Burke, 1998, p. 12).
Tables are another way of presenting information in infographics. They can be used to simply present information that would otherwise need bulks of texts to explain. With presentation of information using images, Tufte reveals how the use of tables can be a challenge where the intended audience is visually impaired (1997, p. 24).
To ensure that passing of information in tables is simple and easy to understand, he advises that it is necessary to “keep tables as simple as possible” (Tufte, 1990, p. 23). To achieve this goal, one may present information in multiple tables instead of combining it in one table where this is [possible (McCandless, 2009, p. 26).
The designs used in making tables should also make sense easily especially when they are read from one side to the other (linearised) as pointed out by Wurman (1997, p. 22). The title given to the table should be simple and a summary of the table’s content. It is necessary that a caption is included alongside the table when presenting information that should “summarise the table’s significant information concisely but clearly” (Wurman, 1997, p. 22).
Table headers should also be used. Instead, Fukushi says they should be orderly and clearly organised (2009, p. 19). The use of tables in information sharing is important where numerical information is to be presented. The use of colour “and special shading patterns can enhance visual appeal, but too much colour or too many different shading patterns can lead the table to appear cluttered” (Tufte, 1990, p. 17).
Graphs represent a very common style of presenting information in infographics. A lot of information can be interpreted and passed using graphs. Particular significance of this method of passing information is “when you want the reader to grasp a pattern or trend in the results, and when precise numerical details do not have to be communicated through the graph” (Tufte, 1997, p. 24).
In the neat presentation of information on graphs, some of the rules applied in the use of tables also apply here. In fact, according to Wurman, they should represent information in a very simple way with labels used to explain it (1997, p. 22). There exist different types of graphs. The choice of which to use depends on whether data is discreet or continuous (Kane, 2003, p. 19).
Apart from these methods of sharing information in infographics, the use of oral methods of information sharing is very common. Communication through speech is the most basic form of information sharing. There are a number of factors determining the clarity of the information shared this way (Wildbur, & Burke, 1998, p. 12). What advantages does infographics have over plain oral communication?
For an individual to make and support a point in information sharing by the oral method, a significant number of words may be required. The time taken to fully convey the massage may be long thus distorting the intended message. By using infographics, a person can shorten the time required to pass the information and improve the quality of the message passed in the end.
Another way in which Infographics are superior to oral communication is the ability to replicate the message with accuracy. For oral communication, the massage that is communicated is dependent on the skills of the source of the message. Meaning can change between one individual and the other.
For infographics on the other hand, the message is maintained in the original form in which it was intended. Any alteration is not as significant as in oral communication. Infographics are also easy to store for future reference. This quality that is relatively harder to achieve for oral communication. It is therefore important to conduct a study on how infographics make the receiving of information easier.
The role of the internet in Infographics
With the internet being a basic method of communication in the 21st century, it is important to consider the part it plays in simplifying infographics and aiding in the sharing of information. A number of uses of infographics over the internet have developed with the commonest ones being the application in games created via Adobe Flash and otherproducts (Wildbur, & Burke, 1998, p. 13).
The development of infographics has not been limited to the internet with televisions being used as one of the avenues where infographics are applied. The use of infographics on the internet has helped in the propagation of information that would otherwise be complex for the intended audience.
The creation of infographics for internet use has been done in the past by using the Adobe Flash with alternatives entering the market over the years (McCandless, 2009, p. 26). The use of infographics on the internet has also been revolutionised by the use of software allowing for clear and beautiful graphics over the internet.
One of them is the maestro concept system that has revolutionised the way information is shared especially for new companies (Tufte, 1990, p. 23). The system has reduced the time taken to create and share a story in these institutions with the intended audience finding it easier to understand the message.
As a marketing tool, the internet has become one of the most important areas to master for organisational survival because most of the clients served by companies are present here. Companies must therefore use it to attract potential customers (Fukushi, 2009, p. 11).
Over the internet, information graphics “…have become a tool for internet marketers and companies to create content that others will link to thus possibly boosting a company’s reputation and online presence” (Wildbur, & Burke, 1998, p. 12). The internet has also found use in the education systems with millions of learners obtaining their education through it.
To ensure that the quality of the information provided is guaranteed, infographics have been utilised (Wurman, 1997, p. 22). In fact, according to Wildbur and Burke, the use of visual tools in learning has been known to encourage learning over the past with improvement in the retention of the information and a better speed of presenting it (1998, p. 44). Online classes therefore utilise information graphics to educate their subscribers.
Data visualisation methods
As indicated above, data presentation is one of the most significant uses of infographics. Visualisation types are also classified based on the size, colour and shape into “maps, networking, hierarchies, time series, and statistical distributions” (McCandless, 2009, p. 26). Maps are used to represent geographical information. In infographics, choropleth maps are useful in presenting statistical information especially for countries.
Statistical distributions are used in infographics to depict trends in distribution of numbers (Tufte, 1997, p. 24). The histogram is the best example of statistical distributions in infographics. From it, the mode, mean, median and outliers can be obtained from a set of data (Kane, 2003, p. 13).
Of all the forms of data visualisation in infographics above, time-series data is among the most commonly used (Wildbur, & Burke, 1998, p. 18). Graphics falling in this category are the commonly used index charts, horizon graphs, and stacked graphs (Wurman, 1997, p. 22). When the user needs to represent relative changes in data more than the raw values themselves, index charts present as the best option (Fukushi, 2009, p. 11).
This graph shows changes in percentages over a time period using a line chart that is interactive. In the stock market, this graphic representation of data is utilised, as the investors are more interested in the trend rather than the actual prices of shares. When one looks at the graph, an impression of the general pattern as well as the individual patterns of the categories they are interested in (Wildbur, & Burke, 1998, p. 14).
A major disadvantage to the use of this graph is the complexity and difficulty for individuals to interpret the trends especially where negative numbers are involved (McCandless, 2009, p. 26). Where easier interpretation of information represented by these forms of data visualisation is desired, a simpler form of graph that is used is the small multiples as revealed by McCandless (2009, p. 29).
Contrary to index charts where the information is stacked in graphs, simple multiples have individual series showing the overall trends in the constituent sectors and therefore easy to interpret (McCandless, 2009, p. 29). Kane believes that horizontal graphs, on the other hand, maximise space with the ability to represent higher data densities and preserving resolution at the same time (2003, p. 28).
Another form of data visualisation is the use of networks. As the name suggests, a network connection between individuals and data sets is made for use to show relationships such as friendship or cliques (McCandless, 2009, p. 38).
Common forms of this visualisation include matrix views, arch diagrams, and the more common force-directed layouts (McCandless, 2009, p. 38). The commonest use for matrix views is in the fields of mathematics and computer science where coordinates are used to position the respective values (Wurman, 1997, p. 25).
With the modern use of computers and special software in infographics and information architecture and design, a combination of the above methods of information is possible. Where this combination is done, texts are used to explain the relationships to show some of the trends that may be missed or are not apparent in the graphs.
The text is also used to label and give units to the quantities and characteristics in the drawings. Information architecture, also known as information design, is a special field dealing with the creation of infographics (Tufte, 1990, p. 14). Some of the simplest tools used in the creation of infographics include the conventional paper and pencil. A person could create simple information graphic just by using a pencil, ruler, a rubber, and a graph paper (Wurman, 1997, p. 27).
However, with technological development in the present age, the creation of infographics is more commonly done by the use of computers. This strategy is simpler, less tedious, and faster compared to the manual method since it utilises special software designed for the work (Wildbur, & Burke, 1998, p. 12). Specialised websites over the internet are also available for the creation of infographics (Fukushi, 2009, p. 11).
The research on the simplification of information sharing by infographics is important. The results may help in the contribution of information to the existing studies. The objective is to determine the rate at which information is shared by using information graphics as compared to other methods of communication.
An analysis of the case studies is necessary in this study to compare the use of Infographics in various parts of the world including Hong Kong. The methods used for the collection of data for the research may be the use of interviews, literature reviews, and questionnaires attempting to capture the sharing of information using infographics. The analysis of the results of the data obtained from the review and literature search will then follow with conclusions being made.
For the analysis of the results, statistical packages for data analysis will be used. These methods have been found to be more effective in the past than the gated methods of data analysis with improved accuracy and speed. The presentation of the data will also be a subject of the research where methods of data presentation will be analysed and discussed based on the simplicity in communication.
With the completion of the analysis and presentation of the results, adequate recommendations will be made to the relevant authorities. The case studies will also be analysed and discussed. The aim of these case studies will be to compare the use of infographics in places such as Hong Kong with other areas of the world. A relationship between the extent of the use of infographics and developments in communication in the countries discussed will then be made.
Infographics have their home in all the countries of the world. The technique is applied for a number of officials and non-official uses. Some of the common uses of infographics include the representation of economic data for countries and organisations, representation ofdemographic and other types of data obtained from censuses, and analysis of organisational performance. In the US, for example, planning from the various projects is made and presented in the form of infographics, with the best example being the subway system.
Another representation that uses infographics is the path followed by planes across the Atlantic Ocean. The path is represented as the transatlantic superhighway (Kane, 2003, p. 22). The Infographics representation of the path followed by planes over the Atlantic Ocean is simple to understand and interpret. The creation borrows data from an air traffic control map alongside other navigational data that is used by the flights on this route.
The grand central terminal was also represented in the form of infographics in the restoration attempts thus helping engineers and construction workers in their planning as well as giving the public an idea of the complete project (Tufte, 1990, p. 23). In the world stage, the United Nations and other global organisations use infographics to analyse and present reports of the various factors in the economies and social components of their member countries.
An example is in the Olympics where, apart from the medal ceremonies in the field, an analysis of the results is done and reported on their website. The organisers use the infographics to show the amount of success obtained by the participating countries relative to their GDP (McCandless, 2009, p. 26). In this approach, the observers get to see, “who did the most with the least resources” (Fukushi, 2009, p. 19).
The representation of the data obtained from the US national census is also made using the infographics representations, which enable the interested individuals and organisations to demonstrate any change that is relevant to them.
The information that is represented includes the quality of life for the citizens and the changes over the years, the change in the GDP and GNP, and the general population changes. The age structure and sex distribution in the country are also represented adequately using infographics thus aiding in the formulation of government policy in the respective fields (Wurman, 1997, p. 21).
Hong Kong has a relatively an equal use for infographics with the most use being made by the registered companies in the country. The use of the information is to show that the changes in its financial status, the expected trends in losses or profitability, and the assets are effectively made by the use of infographics.
Some of the major projects that have been undertaken here have also utilised infographics. They range from infrastructure projects, real estate projects, and industrial projects (Wurman, 1997, p. 25). The major use of infographics in the state is in the designing industry, the statistical fields, and in the recreational areas.
The sharing of information in the state is easier than it was in the last decade. Through the social media, graphical representation of information is easy. Hong Kong has one of the largest numbers of internet users in Asia. In fact, Wildbur and Burke assert that the number of information architects in the area is also on the rise (1998, p. 12).
The sharing of information is therefore a significant part of the economy. The sector earns the state a significant amount of wealth. Infographics have therefore contributed significantly to the economic survival of the country, as evidenced by the growth in GDP and improved living standards of living.
For research in this area of communication, the collection of data for comparison of the various areas of the economy in different states is necessary. Since the most important use of Infographics is in data analysis, the research should therefore be based on the use of the various types of infographics in data representation.
The internet is a significant source of information of this area. Data collection will mainly be from the existing research findings. A search will then be conducted on the literature detailing the use of infographics in the selected countries and regions. The most appropriate studies will then be selected and analysed based on the conclusions and findings in them. A collection of the findings that are related will then be grouped into categories for ease of analysis.
Another method of data collection will be by the use of interviews, which will be conducted in the organisations and government agencies that are perceived to use infographics in their daily activities. The relevant officers will then be interviewed.
The target will be to obtain information on how infographics contribute in simplifying and speeding information sharing both within the organisations and with their clients and partners. The use of questionnaires is a relevant method of data collection that will also be applied in the research. The questions to be included in the questionnaire will be closed and open ended. They will then be used to gauge the use of infographics in the organisations.
Another method is the analysis of the records in the organisations of interests to investigate the use of infographics. As established above by Wildbur and Burke, the use of infographics makes information sharing easy (1998, p. 41). The complexity of the infographics used in the records will therefore be investigated. These results will then be analysed based on the established methods of analysis, and the conclusions made based on them.
Infographics is generally divided into three parts: the knowledge part, the content part, and the visual part (McCandless, 2009, p. 26). The visual part is the use of colours and graphics (Tufte, 1997, p. 24).
The graphics contents of the visual part are then classified into the reference and the theme with the theme being present in all the infographics as pointed out by Fukushi (2009, p. 19). Insight into the presented data is the part that is referred to as the knowledge part. Each individual that looks at the graphics gets this part (Tufte, 1990, p. 25).
From the information above and from previous studies, the sense of sight is the most utilised in information sharing with vision being the most important part of receiving information (Wildbur, & Burke, 1998, p. 24). Research by Wurman has also established that vision forms around half of the brains functions, and is faster in processing of images compared to text (1997, p. 25).
Pictures are processed immediately and in bulk with text being processed in a linear manner in the brain. Processing of text is slower compared to images. Infographics therefore enable fast information sharing (McCandless, 2009, p. 26). Different forms of learning exist.
They are classified according to the sense utilised in the learning process used in kinaesthetic, visual, and auditory (Wildbur, & Burke, 1998, p. 28). Research by Wurman along this line has established that over 65% of individuals use the visual learning process as compared to the other processes thus making the sharing of information easier for them if the infographics are utilised (1997, p. 25).
The analysis of the results of the research proposed above will most likely support the hypothesis that infographics make sharing of information faster when compared to other methods of representing information such as basic text. A proper analysis using appropriate methods is necessary to improve the accuracy of the results and in the making of conclusions.
The results of the research indicate that the use of infographics in data presentation makes the sharing of information easy. There is however a need for more researches to support this observation, propose new methods of infographics, and to improve the accuracy of the existing methods.
In conclusion, the essay set to investigate how infographics make receiving and sharing of information easy. As stated above, the world has accelerated into the information age with information and technology growing at a fast rate. One of the fields responsible for the growth is infographics, which has made presenting of information to be easy and faster. Before the entry of infographics into the field, the presentation of information was by plain text.
Posters are described to be among the first categories of infographics to be invented with changes taking place after the development of the printing press. Newspapers then took over. The internet is now an indispensable part of infographics. Some of the literatures reviewed above state that the visual sense is faster in relation to others in the way the brain processes its signals thus making infographics a faster and easier way of information sharing. Therefore, infographics has made receiving of information easy as suggested above.
Fukushi, Y. (2009). Informational diagram collection. Tokyo, Japan: PIE Books.
Kane, J. (2003). A type primer. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
McCandless, D. (2009). Information is beautiful. London: Collins.
Tufte, E. (1990). Envisioning information. Cheshire, Conn.: Graphics Press.
Tufte, E. R. (1997). Visual explanations: images and quantities, evidence and narrative. Cheshire, Conn.: Graphics Press.
Wildbur, P., & Burke, M. (1998). Information graphics: innovative solutions in contemporary design. New York: Thames and Hudson.
Wurman, R. S. (1997). Information architects. New York (N.Y.): Graphis.