Many a heated debate over the proper approach to information design is raging online nowadays, which seems to raise the question: Why all the conflict in the friendly field of pretty picture creation? The debate surrounds just that: The role of aesthetics and decoration in the design of infographics. To understand the underlying tension, a bit of background is necessary.
Science and publishing have used information design and visualization as a communication tool for centuries. However, study and development in the field has mostly been dominated by academics and scientists, who are concerned primarily with understanding the most effective way to process and present information to aid viewers’ analyses. These efforts are driven by loads of research, with highly theoretical consideration; when practical, the focus is on using software to process and visualize data sets. For years, only a select few—an educated, knowledgeable, and skilled group of individuals—have discussed and practiced visualization in this sense. Then the Internet caught on. Around 2007, interest in infographics (mostly editorial in nature) began to grow on the web, as people shared old infographics like Napoleon’s march on Moscow (Figure 1.1) and newer creations such as those published by GOOD Magazine (Figure 1.2). Suddenly, a whole new group of “experts” was praising, sharing, and critiquing (mostly critiquing) any infographic they could find.