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An infographic is a visual graphic representation of information, a picture with a message in it, sketches that tell a story. We learn from them, we teach with them, they are the most used and probably the most un-noticeable form of communication we take for granted. I’m writing about my experience with inforgraphics and how I evolved with them and how I use them on a daily basis.
Fast-forward to present day, with the introduction of the Internet, digital design technology has emerged as the new medium for infographic design. The emergence of Social Networking has propelled the desire for infographic design on the Internet. Graphic arts evolved into multi-media digital design.
With so many programs to choose from it was obvious for me to choose the programs most used in the industry. I chose the Adobe Creative Suites programs, Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Flash, InDesign, and Acrobat Pro 9 to learn digital design.
It was somewhat cumbersome changing from hand drawn sketches to digital design and the transition was at the same level of difficulty I experienced migrating from drawing with a pencil on a drafting table to drafting on a CAD system. As soon as I got the hang of creating digital graphics the reward came when making design changes. The payoff is in how fast and easy you can make modifications. The learning curve was quite an undertaking but the changeover was well worth it in the end.
Functional design became essential to train the viewer’s eyes in recognizing features that will help in navigating through web pages, menu displays, shopping mall directories, museum tours, and maps to name a few examples. I believe if there is a discipline to developing infographics it is the goal to make the infographic as simple as possible, straight to the point and more in the communication sense and less in the artistic sense, a working graphic metaphor.
When I first attempt to create an information-graphic I imagine a message theme first and try to create a graphic as much as possible without text explanation. But if text is necessary to help explain the fundamental characteristic of the graphic message then as a designer it’s up to me to find the right balance in the graphic to text combination and achieve the best infographic result. If I can get away without using text in the graphic message then I feel I’ve created a successful Graphic Metaphor. It might not be necessary but that’s a personal choice.
What is a GRAPHIC METAPHOR?
“A graphic is an image or visual representation of an object.” (http://www.techterms.com/definition/graphics)
“A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance.” (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/metaphor)
Without going into a written definition, my example of a Graphic Metaphor is the image to the left. What message do you see in this graphic? Yeah I know it’s easy, “World Peace” but the point is to show how to communicate a message without using texts.
Imagine yourself in a situation where you’re trying to communicate with an extraterrestrial, you wouldn’t be able to speak to him-her-it and you most certainly wouldn’t understand each other’s writing, so what would you do? The only natural thing you are forced to do is to draw a picture in the sand, so to speak, and use silly erratic body movements to emphasize what you’re trying to say. When verbal communication and body motions have been exhausted the next thing is to draw something to help aid in the effort to communicate.
Infographics are created just for that purpose to aid in communication. Good examples are stop signs, public bathroom characters on doors, and app icons on your phone. They subliminally teach the viewer to recognize that graphic symbol for future use.
Just think about how difficult it would be to live in a world without graphic symbols. Imagine how difficult it would be to explain something without graphics. Infographics are an important part of our daily interactions and they bring life to all forms of communications.
The WORKING GRAPHIC
I believe the main objective of the Infographic is to teach and for the viewer to learn. There’s really nothing artistic about it other than developing a style in rendering a functional design. The function of the infographic is to effectively deliver a message.
In the same manner I create engineering CAD drawings I use the same approach when creating an infographic. I start by first determining what audience will be viewing the graphic and for what purpose. If I create an engineering machine drawing then I’m creating the drawing for engineering and the machinist who will be making the part; an electrical schematic for an electrician; an assembly drawing for an assembler. I only use enough graphics and information to deliver the message, no more, no less. Too much information creates confusion and too little defeats the purpose.
In creating an inforgraphic I will determine purpose and function in the most aesthetically simple way as possible. I’ll create the graphic to get straight to the point to serve the purpose and function. Unlike CAD graphics for engineering drawings the infographic maybe in combination with other graphics in elaboration to the information content being developed. For example the graphics in this website helps the viewer to understand what the developer (me) is writing about.
Infographics are all around us, we learn from them, we teach with them, and they are the most used and probably the most un-noticeable form of communication we take for granted.