Evolution of the infographic

August 30th, 2018

Since they were first invented, infographics have been a favourite way of displaying data and enticing readers to view your content. They present content in a more engaging way than text alone and are fantastic for bloggers, journalists and other content creators.

What is an infographic

Infographics are a fun and quick way to learn about a topic without having to wade through a ton of text. There are loads of different styles for data visualisation, and all infographics look a little different, but the primary goal of them is to be quickly consumed and easily shared.

Image – Infographic by JBH – The Content Agency

Infographics through history

Many people don’t realise that infographics have been around a lot longer than social media. The first ever infographic is credited to Christoph Scheiner and was published in his book about the rotation of the sun in 1626.

The infographic was an illustration of Scheiner’s findings of the Sun’s rotation and was the first time that scientific data was presented in a visual way rather than just using the written word to regurgitate what had been discovered from observation.

Essentially, all an infographic is, is a data visualisation. People have been visualising data in a way to communicate their ideas for years more effectively. Here are some timeless examples:

Image – Periodic Table / Public Domain

Periodic Table

Dmitri Mendeleev’s periodic table is one of the most important data visualisations in history. It changed chemistry forever; showing not only the element but how they interact with one another.

Elements in the same column share characteristics, so even someone with little knowledge of chemistry can predict how individual elements in the table will behave based on a single experiment.

Image – London Tube Map 1908 / Public Domain

London Tube Map

In 1933, Harry Beck created the first map of the London Tube as we know it today. It is more of a diagram than a map as it is not geographically accurate like it was when it was first created.

The original geographically accurate map (above) was a mess making it difficult for users of the tube to find their way around. Harry tidied up the map, using straight and diagonal lines and experimented with the distances between stations, making those on the outer reach seem much closer to Central London.

Initially, Harry did this as a personal endeavour due to his interest in London’s transportation, but he was eventually convinced to send it into the UERL (who operated the tubes). They bought the design off him for £10, and it set the foundation for the tube map we see today – whose design style has been used by new metro lines and subways across the world.

Image – Florence Nightingale / Public domain

Florence Nightingale

In addition to being a famous caretaker and the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale was also a statistician.

When she headed home from her famous stint in the Crimean War, she presented the data she collected as an infographic and used it to lobby for better conditions and expanded roles for nurses successfully.

She recognised that for information to be useful it must be presented in a way that keeps the audience interested and in a way that they understand so she used graphs to represent her challenging to understand figures.

Florence’s infographic is an excellent example of how data can exact meaningful change and even save lives. Her infographic was a visual representation of deaths in the war from disease showing how poor sanitation was the main culprit of the high mortality rate in hospitals during the war. From her data changes were put in place that reduced mortality rates and the spread of disease in hospitals.

Where are infographics heading in the future?

Infographics are still one of the best types of visuals for generating engagement, with infographics being like and shared three times more than any other form of content on social media. It is unlikely that this will change in the future, but infographics have started to adapt to maintain that level of engagement.

Here are some types of infographics we are likely to see more of in the future:

Interactive Infographics

As infographics have become increasingly common tools for displaying hard to understand information. Making your infographics interactive rather than static can help them stand out and keep your audience’s attention.

Due to the fact that an interactive is a more intricate piece of content and requires more technical knowledge to create, they are far less common than static pieces of content. This plus all the extra design options that they offer give you a much greater chance of capturing your audience’s attention with 88% of marketers say interactive content differentiates them from their competitors.

Interested in learning how Interactive Infographics could help your business? Check out our Interactive Content case study.

There are a number of ways you can make you infographic interactive, from pop-ups and scroll overs to multiple pages and hiding information so users have to participate to get the information they are looking for.

This combination of adding kinetic elements to visual elements is why interactive infographics work so well. Most humans are visual learns but it is also proven that people are better able to retain information through a physical activity – with 79%of people agreeing that interactive content enhances retention of brand messaging.

Animations

Bringing infographics to life with animations is still a fairly new thing but is becoming more and more popular. Just like interactive infographics, due to the technical knowledge required to create them, they are still fairly uncommon so give you a great chance to differentiate yourself from your competitors.

Mobile

With mobile traffic now overtaking desktop traffic, all content you are creating, including your infographics should be created with mobile in mind. In future, we are likely to see an increase of mobile-friendly infographics.

When making infographics that are mobile friendly you need to consider things like readability, making the text elements larger to compensate for the smaller display. Smartphones are also horizontally limited compared to desktops but vertically they can go on forever so you should consider designing for vertical scrolling for future infographics.

VR

The first ever Virtual Reality infographic was created in 2016, debuting at SXSW. VR infographics are far from easy to create and there are very few out there but as we see VR tech advance and become more mainstream content creators will need to embrace it and incorporate it into their infographics.

Infographics have moved beyond a medium for communication and become a sign of authority on the web. To ensure that your infographics are benefiting your business you need to ensure that they are high-quality, engaging, keep your audience’s attention and provide them with useful information.

Keeping pace with the latest content marketing trends isn’t easy so to keep up check out our list of exceptional content marketing thought leaders to follow.

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