The history and origin of infographics can be traced back to ancient times, but their modern form and popularity surged in the late 20th century. Today’s infographics aren’t just incredible. New trends allow them to be interactive.
The History of Infographics
- Early History: The roots of infographics are often linked to cave paintings and Egyptian hieroglyphs, which used visual representations to communicate information. Throughout history, maps and various forms of visual data representation have been used. One notable early infographic is the 1858 Nightingale rose diagram, created by Florence Nightingale, which depicted the causes of mortality in the Crimean War:
- 20th Century Advancements: The term infographic likely emerged in the 20th century. The development of infographics during this time was driven by advances in graphic design and printing technology, which made it easier to produce visually appealing and informative graphics.
- Rise in Popularity: Infographics gained popularity in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. This was primarily due to the advent of the digital age, which facilitated the easy creation and sharing of infographics online. The increased use of social media platforms and blogs also played a crucial role in disseminating infographics.
Infographics are used extensively in various fields, such as journalism, education, business, and marketing. They are valued for their ability to present complex information in a digestible and visually engaging format. The rise of data journalism and the emphasis on data visualization in reporting have further cemented the role of infographics in modern communication.
While using visual elements to convey information has been around for centuries, the specific term and modern usage of infographics have become increasingly prominent with the rise of digital media and the need to process and communicate large amounts of information quickly and effectively.
Types of Infographics
Infographics come in various styles and formats, each suited to different data types and storytelling needs. Some of the most popular types include:
- Statistical Infographics: These are designed to convey data through charts, graphs, and other visualizations. They are commonly used in business and research to present survey results, demographic data, and other statistics in a clear, digestible format.
- Timeline Infographics: These display a list of events in chronological order. They are often used in history, project planning, and to show the evolution of a product or company.
- Process Infographics: Also known as how-to infographics, these outline a process or provide step-by-step instructions. They are popular in educational content, manuals, and DIY guides.
- Comparative Infographics: Used to compare and contrast different options, features, or data sets. These are particularly useful in product comparisons, pros and cons lists, and any scenario where making distinctions between items is crucial.
- Informational Infographics: Designed to provide concise and visually appealing information on a specific topic. They combine short text descriptions with clear visuals to educate the audience on a subject.
- Geographic Infographics: These use maps and spatial data to present geographical information and trends. They are widely used in environmental studies, demographics, and travel.
- Hierarchical Infographics: Used to show data where the elements are organized in a hierarchy. They often take the form of organizational charts or decision trees.
- List Infographics: Essentially a visual list, these are used to present a collection of tips, ideas, or other items in a visually engaging format.
- Story or Journey Infographics: A visual representation that brings the reader through a story.
Each type of infographic serves a specific purpose and is chosen based on the nature of the information conveyed and the target audience. The effectiveness of an infographic greatly depends on its ability to present information in a clear, engaging, and visually appealing manner. My company has designed and developed hundreds of infographics for our clients… and they always work.
To date, we’ve mostly seen infographics beautifully packaged in vertical image files that are easy to view, scroll, embed, and share online. As companies wish to build awareness and gain backlinks for search engine visibility, infographics skyrocketed in popularity. To increase engagement, we’re seeing more and more companies develop interactive infographics.
It’s important to note that there’s a difference between animated infographics and interactive infographics. Animated infographics are impressive, often animated gifs, can be copied and embedded, and effectively grab readers’ attention. However, they’re not interactive, meaning the user can interact via scrolling and clicking.
Here are some outstanding interactive infographics I’ve found online (click to open):
With the advancement of digital media, interactive infographics are growing in popularity. They allow users to interact with the data by clicking or hovering to reveal more information.
Interactive Infographic Disadvantages
There are some major disadvantages to be aware of:
- Embedding – Other websites (like mine) may be hesitant to embed an interactive infographic because it’s dependent upon the third-party website. One strategy to avoid this is creating both a static and interactive infographic. This will allow other sites to publish the static infographic but still promote the destination site’s interactivity.
- Design – Aside from scrolling interactivity, clicking and zooming can be challenging on mobile devices. Building animation and interactivity for a range of viewports between desktop and mobile devices can be quite a challenge.
- Maintenance – If you search for interactive infographics, you’ll be sorely disappointed at how many websites have abandoned the upkeep of these pages. Launching an interactive infographic that drives awareness, backlinks, and gains search traction means that you need to maintain the infographic through rebranding and CMS changes. Additionally, if you have a timeline infographic, you will have to modify and update the infographic if your readers expect it.
Interactive infographics require much more design and development because the user experience must be exceptional to be popular. That can be quite an investment for a company. I’m definitely not advising against them. Just as infographics help take complex stories or data and make them insightful, interaction can add a layer of engagement and understanding that can be quite advantageous.