infographic

Syllabifiction: (in·fo·graph·ic)

Pronounciation: /ˌinfōˈgrafik/

noun

a visual image such as a chart or diagram used to represent information or data:

a good infographic is worth a thousand words

(from oxforddictionaries.com)

It seems like such a simple definition for an area of graphic design that has become extremely popular over the last few years.

Much like any new trend that comes along, there are both good and bad examples. Probably more bad than good. Infographics in general have suffered from many criticisms. As Robert Kosara states, ‘the recent flood of bad infographics is interesting because I think it shows what happens when people get access to tools they don’t know how to use, and start imitating what they have seen elsewhere without understanding.’ This is true for a wide range of things. HDR photography comes to mind right away for me.  provides a comical look at infographic trends.

However, after saying that, I am a huge fan of infographics simply for making large amounts of data visually interesting. I became more interested in data visualization after coming across David McCandless and his website Information is Beautiful a few years ago. photo-2After spending some time looking at his designs online, I learned he had published an awesome hardcover book of them. Being an international teacher, I’m not one to buy a lot of books – but this one I got straight away from Amazon and was very happy I did. Even other co-workers have taken a look at it and decided to get a copy.

I particularly like his designs because they are usually very simple, yet effective. They make large amounts of data easy to understand relative to each other. One great example is his Billion Dollar-O-Gram 2013. As opposed to many others, he also provides his raw data for criticism or feedback and has been known to change or update previous graphics.

This year one of my  courses is Environmental Science, which is modelled after the IB Environmental Systems and Societies. There are so many way to incorporate infographics into this course in every topic, but the one that stands out for me is WATER. Water is discussed as a natural resource, below is an excerpt from the IB Curriculum for Environmental Systems & Societies:

3.6.1 Describe the Earth’s water budget.

Only a small fraction (2.6% by volume) of the Earth’s water supply is fresh water. Of this, over 80% is in the form of ice caps and glaciers, 0.6% is groundwater and the rest is made up of lakes, soil water, atmospheric water vapour, rivers and biota in decreasing order of storage size. Precise figures are not required.

3.6.2 Describe and evaluate the sustainability of freshwater resource usage with reference to a case study.

Irrigation, industrialization and population increase all make demands on the supplies of fresh water. Global warming may disrupt rainfall patterns and water supplies. The hydrological cycle supplies humans with fresh water but we are withdrawing water from underground aquifers and degrading it with wastes at a greater rate than it can be replenished. Consider the increased demand for fresh water, inequity of usage and political consequences, methods of reducing use and increasing supplies. A case study must be explored that covers some of these issues and demonstrates either sustainable or unsustainable water use.

 

Below are a number of images found from the insane amount of water infographics available online.

The first one is quite simple, but is meant to illustrate exactly how little fresh water is available from the total amount on Earth:

water

This one describes the water crisis that has begun and which is likely to worsen in the coming years. The colour used in this one I particularly like, although it is sometimes hard to distinguish between them on some of the maps:


Infographic by Seametrics, a manufacturer of water flow meter technology that measures and conserves water.

The one below I am including as an example of a not-so-good infographic. Look at the ridiculous amount of (tiny) text all over the space. The actual graphics used are far too small and the largest graphic is of a glass of water, which really doesn’t have a specific role in the design.

water_big

International Networks Archive via Princeton University

These water infographics can be used as discussion starters after they have looked over them ahead of class. They are also useful tools to have students practice absorbing data in various forms, which is an important skill to develop before leaving high school.

For interest, check out 13 of the years best infographics.

Featured Image: blprnt_van via Compfight cc