Information graphics or infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly. They can improve cognition by utilizing graphics to enhance the human visual system’s ability to see patterns and trends. The process of creating infographics can be referred to as data visualization, information design, or information architecture.
It has been around for many years and recently the proliferation of a number of easy-to-use, free tools have made the creation of information graphics available to a large segment of the population. Social media sites, such as, Facebook and Twitter have also allowed individual information graphics to be spread among global audience. In the newspapers, infographics are commonly used to show the weather, as well as maps, site plans, and graphs for statistical data. Some books are almost entirely made up of information graphics.
Infographics are effective because of their visual element. Humans receive input from all five senses (sight, touch, hearing, smell, taste), but they receive significantly more information from vision than any of the other four. Fifty percent of the human brain is dedicated to visual functions, and images are processed faster than text. The brain processes pictures all at once, but processes text in a linear fashion, meaning it takes much longer to obtain information from text. Furthermore, it is estimated that 65% of the population are visual learners (as opposed to auditory or kinesthetic), so the visual nature of infographics caters to a large portion of the population. Entire business processes or industry sectors can be made relevant to a new audience through a guidance design technique that leads the eye. The page may link to a more complete report, but the information graphic primes the reader making the subject-matter more accessible.
The online trends, such as, the increasingly short attention span of Internet users, have also contributed to the increasing popularity and effectiveness of infographics. When designing the visual aspect of infographics, a number of considerations must be made to optimize the effectiveness of the visualization. The six components of visual encoding are spatial, marks, connection, enclosure, retinal properties, and temporal encoding. Each of these can be utilized in its own way to represent relationships between different types of data. However, studies have shown that spatial position is the most effective way to represent numerical data and leads to the fastest and easiest understanding by viewers.
Therefore, the designers often spatially represent the most important relationship being depicted in infographics. Information graphics can be created by hand using simple everyday tools such as graph paper, pencils, markers, and rulers. However, today they are more often created using computer software, which is often both faster and easier. They can be created with general illustration software, such as Adobe Illustrator. There are also a number of specialized websites and tools which can be used to construct infographics. It also includes a number of templates to get users started on their diagrams. Additionally, it allows users to collaborate on diagrams in real time over the Internet. All of the services above have a free option but can be upgraded for more feature rich experience.