Infographics

Tanya Devaeva, April 30, 2013

There is more and more infographics around. People take it up and dispute what it actually is, although there’re many kinds of it (for example, “The information is beautiful” nominations). However, the readers seem not to be used to such kind of presentation, that is to say, their interest should be stimulated by those who make and like it.

Still and all, there are two aspects that interest us.

Firstly, what’s the difference between infographics and any kind of nontrivial, smart illustration? (Though you can hardly ever see it in Russian printed media). Nevertheless the editions that don’t avoid such illustration print infographics as well. (“The secret of the firm” before redesign, for instance) Or is there a specific character of its distribution and popularization?

Secondly, infographics is considered to be a difficult thing to apprehend. But where does this difficulty come from? Any school should have been a great source of infographics, with all its biology, chemistry and physics textbooks. There were plenty of posters, diagrams and drafts. On the other hand, there weren’t so many tasks aimed at data organizing and structuring skills development.

 

Infographics at school books — editor's choice

 


 

Maxim Chatsky,
illustrator Bang! Bang!


As for me, I take infographics as a storytelling in visual form. The key word here is story. But the means of communication can be any, from common symbols to the total lack of text

The illustrators take the plots where journalists take them. It’s just everything what can be analyzed, taken to pieces, reassembled and clearly stated. If we take any user manual we can see that some stories are better analyzed in the form of texts, some of them as illustrations and the other ones as diagrams. The main thing is not to complicate the message, to keep the clarity of the information.

The plenty of information and the enthusiasm for its visualization lead to the main problem of modern infographics. The problem is that the form tends to replace the content. And there should always be the message. Good infographics is a result of simultaneous work of at least two people: an artist and a journalist. And it’s great if there is a third one: the one who gets the data. The less professionals work on the project the worse result we get.

First time Mixim met infoographics — Toko

It’s a mistake to think that infographics aims at getting rid of texts, as the lack of it never helps better understanding or universality. Such pictures can attract one’s attention by the beauty of their structure, but they won’t get etched in anyone’s mind without an explanation, a plot and a conclusion.

In my opinion there’s no problem with the perception of infographics. All of us are visually orientated, there is nobody verdant left.

It’s not difficult to explain why texts prevail over visual images at school as the communication works for the universality of the language. As soon as students are more able to express their thoughts in words than in graphic symbols they should do it this way to be understood explicitly.
I guess there was no such thing as to encourage students to use short statements in order to make everything clearer. That’s how we’ve got the size of the library-research paper as the main criteria of a research work.

 


 

Dmitry Makonnen,
illustrator Bang! Bang!


I would divide infographics into some groups, according to the correlation of the informative and illustrative parts. Infographics in its collective meaning is not graphics but analytics and systematization of this analytics.

It’s obvious that it’s not  illustration but analytics that makes an infographic  masterpiece.  We lack analysts. Sometimes a designer has to make up a horrible analysis by means his graphic art. In my experience 80% of the materials that had to be drawn was made  as standard graphs ( a “pie chart” or a “bar chart”)

Infographics now is a kind of illustration as the client mostly sees it as an illustration in a model of a magazine. It isn’t formed into a separate product. But it’s aimed at making perception easier and not per contra.

The main weakness of infographics is in the group work. It’s a work of at least two people, thus it would be great to make all the decisions about the result they want to get in details beforehand.

 


 

Misha Simakov,
leading infographics designer of «The Moscow News»


The real infographics can never become smart illustration. But illustration can be a part or an element of infographics. It can soften the aridity of the classical, diagram infographics. When making an illustration, you don’t have to simply retell the plot, you might create own images and allegories, and this is great. I have always thought that it’s really cool when an artist excites a reader’s imagination. Dealing with infographics, one should stick to the real information, you just can’t change it.

I can hardly comment on the idea of the incomprehensibility of infographics. As for me, it has always been clear. When you are absorbed in it, when you understand what it’s all about – there’s nothing difficult. You just get it and then you are able to see some other works as a text, even if the presentation is far from perfect.

 

I don’t know how to prepare people, it’s just either interesting for them or not. I think they should start printing different textbooks where they should use different language, the language of infographics as well.

 

If you have had a good set of schemes, educational illustrations and diagrams in your books or somewhere else since childhood, it can will be easy for you to get the messages of infographics.

 

Bang! Bang!
One can draw a parallel between infographics and comics. The comics for adults here is a niche product made by enthusiasts. Grown-ups demand texts. Is it true that comics are developed in the countries where infographics is doing well? 

 

Maxim Chatsky
There are some common features. Comics, however, doesn’t tend to be universal in the message, it wants to get a unique image so that a reader can take it in his/her own way. On the contrary, infographics needs universality.

Dmitry Makonnen
Comics are sometimes close to infography but never the same. In infographics we deal with a single moment while the comics constantly changes and hardly ever comments on the actions. 


 

ВВ
When a person gets interested in infographics, how does he/she starts the studies? Where does he/she get the tools and knowledge from? How to find one’s own infographical style?

 

Maxim Chatsky
There is no such thing as lack of inspiration or ready-made products. There may be problems with teams or trainers. To begin with, one should study the plot, retelling the stories. When there’s a success it’s time for a person to share one’s own observations.

My friend Lana knits different things and sells them on Etsy.com. She deliberately sets such tasks like knitting some parts on the subway only fixing what was happening on the way from one station to another. Or she uses the color of the branch-line in her knitting. Then all the stuff she puts in the forms of schemes, maps and graphs. That’s how an item gets its history and illustrated analysis.

 

Dmitry Makonnen
Infographics is an interesting and exciting thing to do, but not the one you should study. One should learn to collect ind analyse information to create something good. And they are books, not people, to help you. There are no teachers here yet.

 

BB
What’s the work like? The stages, the limits, the techniques?

 

Maxim Chatsky
Most of the infographics I make for magazines, sometimes my clients are promo sites or creative reports, that gives the information I need. And that’s the information what influences the picture. When there is no detailed brief, I can illustrate more. If there is more information, I create the beautiful image of figures and proportions. And of course, there is the text.

 


 

It’s clear how to turn the information about the level of hunger for the last 40 years to our own benefit. Only after I visualize every country it gets clear how they increase.

 

Sometimes you have to illustrate the facts without figures. In this case you have to read some literature in order to understand how it really works. 

 

Or here are illustrations that are also considered to be infographics.

 

Sometimes you are asked to redo one’s work. That’s not the most interesting thing to do.

 

Dmitry Makonnen
I get the brief, get the data and think of what to draw. Art-directors of magazines usually have an idea so I make a sketch and send it to receive their approval. Then I finish it and draw the final version. Finally, I add some magic and Hey presto! — the work is done.


 

Misha Simakov
There’s a couple of subjects I wouldn’t tackle: religion and politics. I try to keep away from this.

And speaking about infographics, I start with getting an idea. Then we analyze everything what has been done before in this sphere. Then there’s a search for the information, discussion and drawing. As a result we get a sketch which we polish later.

 

 

ВВ
Does a designer need to be organized to take up infographics? Is it for bores? Or does it develop the qualities needed? 

 

Dmitry Macconen
I think it’s for those who like to go into all the details. The main thing about doing infographics is accuracy. And a natural wish to check everything again and again.

Misha Simakov
As for me, I’ve got more organized. And, as you constantly analyze everything, you finally get smarter. Firstly, you learn a lot about all kinds of things. Secondly, you train your logic all the time.

Maxim Chatsky
I prefer the word “carefulness” to the “bore”. And I don’t think infographics develop any special features.