Understanding with infography
The infography has been in newspapers and mass media over the years. In the 70′s, The Sunday Times added to their pages the first infographic when computers didn’t exist yet and people had to make everything by hand. At first the aesthetics of the infography was very similar to the comic but kept the explanatory nature. Thereafter, USA Today launches large-scale graphics and incorporates a different graphic on the front of each of their booklets.
This is how the infography took his first steps in the newspapers and, with technology, finished implanted in the media. In the 90′s the first computers appear with text processing capacity. The Apple Mac was invented in 1982 and the main feature was that allowed to see graphics, although in a limited way. At the same time a lot of general newspapers (El Mundo, The Sun, Daily 16 …) began to incorporate infographics to their pages. The Sun bet heavily on the infography since the beginning: it was born as a visual journal with full color cover.
The digital infography has some similarities with the printed but it is clearly different. The main difference is the versatility and capacity for action thanks to digital media and the Internet. Digital infographics allow mutual exchange of content, something that can’t hold the printed infography.
In 1981 Eddy and Glass showed that to understand a particular type of information the subject has to generate a visual image of the objects. The infography allows visualize certain occurrences, explain a complex mechanism, describe a process…Examples are biology textbooks for children, where through infographics, it explains the evolution of human begin. In this way, children find it easier to understand the process that led us to today.
Francesco Franchi is art director of the magazine Il Sole 24 Ore, Italy’s leading. This designer and visual journalist explains his work: “We mix text, numbers and graphics. We include sections where illustration and graphics mixed with text.”. He claims they don’t like to be an alternative to the text and the details always matter.
Many experts have been researching how to influence infographics on the understanding and retention of complex knowledge. Journalist José Manuel De Pablos, one of the leading specialists in this area in Spain, conducted a study based on texts produced to analyze the way that the reader understands the story. The research was carried out among Spanish university students, who were asked, after reading a news of a national newspaper. When he analyzed the responses come to a conclusion: the third group of students, those who the news had presented with an infographic had understand better the news and recalled the salient data.
De Pablos claims: “the hypothesis comes true according to which the infography is a good visual tool and serves to support newspaper readers to grasp more data.”
Understanding a text is to be able to find in memory schemas that allow us to explain the text properly. Therefore a good infographic has to help understand the event happened, explaining in detail so that the reader has the opportunity to clarify their knowledge. The infography has penetrated hard in communication platforms and gradually will increase production. Today all newspapers, television, multimedia, online… use it to inform in a clearer and visually way.
The infography is also a useful tool for companies that want to publicize their progress in processes, structure, purpose, income or any other information. In the graphs are the most relevant data so that facilitate understanding among readers. The designer David McCandless called “understanding design” because he claims that display information through infographics is more appealing to the reader and helps them to understand what is exposed.
He claims too that use the infography in education helps students visualize things more complicated to study than just a text. According to him “with an infographic the hardest subjects become much more understandable.” Also says that the goal of the infography is to make visible the invisible and make information becomes amazing”. He claims that data is the new oil, a precious resource and the infography objective is to achieve a balance between them, a mental language: the language of the eyes.
De Pablos, José Manuel. The journalist and creator of graphics. Synthesis, Spain, 1999.
Emanuelli, Paulina et al. Understanding of informational text.
Eddy, JK and Glass, AL (1981): “Reading and listening to high and low imagery sentences.” Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behaviour.
Jason Lankow. “Infographics: The Power of Visual Storytelling”