The Simplicity and Effectiveness of Infographics

At its base definition, an infographic is a visual presentation of information. In the Age of Data, you see infographics everyday. They're on your Pinterest board or Facebook feed. They may pop up in a commercial or print ad. Classrooms and textbooks use them. In the US, the next time your nightly news cuts to a map outlining red and blue states, you'll be looking at an infographic.

The reason you see infographics everywhere is because they're effective. Marketers and educators use infographics to convey information in the fastest way possible. Life moves fast and people don't always (or hardly ever) read. Hubspot reports that "visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text."

This has been true for a long time. The Digital Age may still be new, but infographics have existed for centuries. Smithsonian Magazine tracked the history of the infographic all the way to the 18th century when Joseph Priestley, a British polymath, created a "Chart of Biography" to visualize about 2,000 historical figures on a timeline. In the 1830's, a French lawyer named André-Michel Guerry created maps showing the correspondence to education and crime. His map directly contradicted conventional wisdom of the time that attributed higher crime rates to higher illiteracy. Thus, data-based social science was born. Florence Nightingale became one of the first people to use data visualization to persuade public policy when she created infographics to show the cause of death for many soldiers was not injuries from battle, but poor hygiene in the hospital.

Infographics are crucial to understanding the world around us, and so we have a responsibility to our audience to be truthful. In the wake of fake news, we must always be transparent about the information we are presenting and not manipulate our readers. Megan McArdle reported for The Atlantic in 2011 that "95% of infographics from unknown sites are full of distortions and lies inserted by internet marketers to get you to link their websites." That was in 2011, and it seems like the problem has only gotten worse. We can stop that trend.

With a dedication to truth, take advantage of the simplicity and effectiveness of infographics. Being able to visualize information will help your audience engage with your message.

To illustrate this, I created the infographic below with information from Save the Food on how to properly store fruit. You can see that by using visual representations of where to store and for how long, the information is much easier to understand and remember than digging through long paragraphs of text. It's also easy to share with others and spread the word.