When we hear the word ‘infographic’ we often remember the commercials that show statistics in a fancy graph or an animated bar chart. But the science of infographics goes beyond just advertisements that show us how micronutrients in the new health drink is 4 times more than the leading brand. If it is true that a picture is worth thousand words, then an elegantly crafted infogrpahic is worth a leather bound volume of Brittanica(estimation). We are visual creatures, who enjoy seeing things to understand them. We are hardwired to picture things in our head – even things that are not real – which helps us to identify patterns and make rapid decisions. Even when we read books, we imagine the scene portrayed by the chapters, visualize the characters and their surroundings adding as much detail as we can. Many layers of everyday evcomplexity can be stripped off with images and so that is left is the beauty for us to recognize and appreciate.
Take this beautiful infographic posted in the sports section of The New York Times website. Here they show the difference between the olympic gold medal winners in the men’s 100 meters sprint starting from 1896 to 2012 – that’s 116 years of the fastest men on the planet. The graphic is supposed to show how much our runners have improved over the years since the 1900. At the top of the ladder is Usain Bolt who completed his recent race in 9.63 seconds. Compare that to Tomas Burke who took the gold after reaching the finish line in 12 seconds. That is close to 20 meters behind Usain Bolt. Only three seconds separate all the men who have ever won the 100 meter dash since 1896 and an astonishing number of the runners come from the US of A. These numbers may seem impressive, but the graphic is way better in conveying the same idea in much shorter time. Check out the runners infographic here.
The animated graphic also superimposes the US runners from schools and colleges which clearly show that these kids are now on par with many of those olympic gold winners just a few years ago. It is clear that the extensive research in nutrition and exercise routines coupled with the supreme discipline and professionalism exhibited by today’s athletes is literally pushing the boundaries of what we once thought physically possible by the human body.
The best part of the infographic is that we instantly get the idea as soon we get a full glimpse of the animation. Before even the first word is spoken, it is abundantly clear that the lead Usain Bolt has over the previous winners is pretty big. Then, as the narrator gives more information about the runners and how their speed has improved over the years we get a better understanding of their performance. This is the essence of visual design. To convey things even before anything is said, and then fill only the empty spaces with words that matter – that’s a great design.
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