The Rise of the Infographic

Since the Internet has become the source of information and transferred our location of knowledge from paper to digital formats, the infographic has become a form of communication that combines image and word to create a specific way to convey and synthesize knowledge. Magazines like GOOD and Fast Company are huge purveyors of infographics online, and their infographics are widely distributed through social media. The infographic is a popular mode of publishing for magazines since they can use infographics as a hybrid of the magazine format online.

Here are three notable infographics from the past month:

The Atlantic‘s “Infographic: How Does Facebook Hold Up Against Google+?

GOOD‘s “Infographic: How Small and Midsize Businesses Are Key to Growing the Economy

Fast Company‘s “Infographic Of The Day: A Food Label That Actually Teaches You About Food

In their Winter 2010 article in Newspaper Research Journal Barbara M. Miller and Brooke Barnett expound upon why the combination of graphics with text work so well in their study of how the modern reader (perhaps better termed as viewer) understands health risks:

On their own, text and graphics are both useful yet imperfect methods for communication. Written language allows an almost infinite number of word combinations that allow deep analysis of concepts but relies heavily on the reader’s ability to process that information. Graphics may be easier for the reader to understand but are less effective in communication of abstract and complicated concepts….This study showed that for the presentation of scientific information, combining text and graphics allows communicators to take advantage of each medium’s strengths and diminish each medium’s weaknesses. (p. 63, “Understanding of Health Risks Aided by Graphics with Text”)

What is interesting to see is how this trend of infographics, first started by USA Today’s color printing revolution in newspaper, has gone from print to the web, and how the web has cultivated infographics into its own “genre” of publishing . This rise in infographics has led to whole books being created out of a series of infographics, as the recently published book Beercraft is.


As can be seen in the two sets of pages from the book, the majority of the book is set up as a two-page wide infographic that displays information to the reader in both graphic and text form. This allows the text to be instructional in ways that a traditional cookbook or an IKEA instructional booklet simply cannot communicate in. Whereas a cookbook is traditionally text oriented and an instructional booklet is traditionally graphic in nature, the infographic combines the two forms by diminishing the weaknesses of two traditional forms and mashing the strengths together.