Info Graphics Graphically Defined










Dona Wong is
an expert in conceptualizing and producing information graphics that are easily
understood by millions of demanding readers on a daily basis. Drawing on her
years of experience as a visual journalist for both The Wall Street Journal and The
New York Times,
she offers her insights on how to communicate with clear,
concise, and intelligent graphics in her new book, The Wall Street Journal Guide to Information Graphics, a critical
area of visual communications that impacts everyone.  Here she answers a few questions on the role of info graphics:

What is the most important element of an
information graphic?
The critical
issue is the balance of visual impact and data richness. A highly designed
graphic with insubstantial content will capture your attention, but end up as
eye candy and leave readers disappointed. A complex graphic chock-full of data,
unedited and not filtered, will be overwhelming and will fail to communicate
the intended message. Simply organizing and filtering the data merely produces
a table. But marrying that with the appropriate visual expression will bring
out the message in the most eloquent and efficient way.
How is there a universal information
language?
“Universal”
implies there is a standard so everyone uses the same convention. My issue is
no one has yet defined the basic grammar of information graphics. We learn how
to write starting from ABC and form words before we write an editorial. With
graphics, people install their software and start making graphics with zero
training. A pie chart with 15 slices or a bar chart without a zero baseline is
like a misspelled word in the headline. And yet people accept that kind of
mediocrity in their graphics presentations. My goal is to raise
everyone’s awareness and sensitize them to the best charting practices.
 
Can all information be communicated
visually?
Yes, all
information can be communicated visually, but not all words or data should be
replaced by visuals. A successful communicator uses the right combination of
graphics, photos, words, gestures, voice—you name it. All information graphics
have one common goal—to communicate the intended message. The challenge is how
to turn a massive amount of information into a compelling story. No program can
replace the human touch in this process.

 


 

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Daily Heller, Imprint: Print Magazine's Design Blog

About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.

3 thoughts on “Info Graphics Graphically Defined

  1. jmsgd

    This is fascinating. I love using, creating, and reading information graphics. I will definitely check out this book.

    I do have to disagree with her universal statement. I feel we have a universal symbol language or at least a start of one. For example, the information graphics for bathroom signs, systems used in airports, train stations, national parks and so forth have a universal appeal to them. Around the world, we have maps; created with the same icons or similar ones used to represent the different parts of a map. I agree universal information graphics not yet perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction.

    On the other hand, I’m not sure it ever will be completely universal. Everybody has a different viewpoint, an individually thinking mind, and what works for some does not work for others. Just take the following article: it discusses the exit sign and how most of the world with the exception of the United States use a similar exit sign. They’ve been pushing for a universal exit sign for over 25 years. You should check it out.
    http://www.slate.com/id/2246107

  2. jmsgd

    This is fascinating. I love using, creating, and reading information graphics. I will definitely check out this book.

    I do have to disagree with her universal statement. I feel we have a universal symbol language or at least a start of one. For example, the information graphics for bathroom signs, systems used in airports, train stations, national parks and so forth have a universal appeal to them. Around the world, we have maps; created with the same icons or similar ones used to represent the different parts of a map. I agree universal information graphics not yet perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction.

    On the other hand, I’m not sure it ever will be completely universal. Everybody has a different viewpoint, an individually thinking mind, and what works for some does not work for others. Just take the following article: it discusses the exit sign and how most of the world with the exception of the United States use a similar exit sign. They’ve been pushing for a universal exit sign for over 25 years. You should check it out.
    http://www.slate.com/id/2246107

  3. jmsgd

    This is fascinating. I love using, creating, and reading information graphics. I will definitely check out this book.

    I do have to disagree with her universal statement. I feel we have a universal symbol language or at least a start of one. For example, the information graphics for bathroom signs, systems used in airports, train stations, national parks and so forth have a universal appeal to them. Around the world, we have maps; created with the same icons or similar ones used to represent the different parts of a map. I agree universal information graphics not yet perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction.

    On the other hand, I’m not sure it ever will be completely universal. Everybody has a different viewpoint, an individually thinking mind, and what works for some does not work for others. Just take the following article: it discusses the exit sign and how most of the world with the exception of the United States use a similar exit sign. They’ve been pushing for a universal exit sign for over 25 years. You should check it out.
    http://www.slate.com/id/2246107

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