In De Architectura, Roman architect and engineer Vitruvius states that there exist three standards to which all structures should adhere: soundness, utility, and beauty. In their paper, On the Role of Design in Information Visualization, authors Andrew Vande Moere and Helen Purchase point out that these standards can and should also be applied to information design and the various applications that serve this purpose. They state that a good visualization should be sound; that is, the design’s form should be suitable for the information it depicts. It should be useful, enabling the viewer to derive meaning from it. And of course, as with all design, it should have aesthetic appeal that attracts the viewer’s attention and provides a pleasing visual experience.

This framework provides a solid basis that anyone can use to judge the value of visualization. However, we will use a slightly different categorization for the purpose of discussing the positive effects of infographics. We will refer to beauty as appeal, and divide utility into the areas of comprehension and retention—as these are the three basic provisions of all effective verbal or visual communication methods:

1. Appeal
Communication should engage a voluntary audience.
2. Comprehension
Communication should effectively provide knowledge that enables a clear understanding of the information.
3. Retention
Communication should impart memorable knowledge.

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