Infographics have been around forever, but they’ve never been more popular than they are today. What used to be a creative visualization technique for a relatively small number of people is now a primary go-to tool for sharing information. Visual.ly is a testament to this data visualization explosion. In less than two years, users have uploaded nearly 30,000 infographics and data visualizations to the site. Our community of designers, journalists and users is at 50,000 strong and is growing every day. As with most new information technologies that go mainstream, infographics have become an integral part of the online superhighway. And they keep popping up in the most interesting and unusual places. Here are some of our favorites. A Marriage Proposal Romance comes in many forms, and marriage proposals do too. From the simple and traditional bended knee on a grassy hill to the modern and extravagant sky writing over Manhattan, men and women have been finding sweet, crazy, and outrageous ways to propose since time immemorial. It should come as no surprise then that today’s geeky and tech-savvy couples have co-opted the infographic for their online, sharable, viral-ready marriage proposals: like the example below that illustrates the statistical improbability of a couple’s love.
A How-To Guide Gone are the days of article-length how-to’s complete with complicated descriptions (use the n-wedge to secure the frontane to the bench squiggle). Today, how-to guides are illustrated with clever graphic aplomb that just makes sense. We’d be willing to bet infographic how-to’s dramatically increase the number of people willing to take on an otherwise technically intimidating project: like tackling the paperwork involved in setting up a company (see the image below). And all hail the power of the infographic instruction manual. Goodbye convoluted text-based hodge-podge, hello crisp and clear information.
A Complement to Text Journalists, novelists, bloggers, and academics are using infographics as a complement to their writing: to illustrate concepts quickly, break up blocks of text, and keep the reader’s interest. In this age of short attention spans and on-the-go information consumption, infographics can help content creators capture their audience’s imagination. A White Paper You Want to Read Convergence insufficiency: sounds awesome, right? Actually it’s a rather fascinating topic — but one that most of us would be likely to ignore, especially if we came across it as a text-heavy white paper. Instead, the authors of the image below decided to present the information graphically. The result: a powerful message viewers are likely to read and remember. And for a problem like this (convergence insufficiency is a vision disorder), viewers that are also sufferers may actually be able to digest the information without having to suffer through a difficult-to-read report. So the image does two jobs: improves general readability and caters to its audience.
A Spruced-Up List with Verve Lists are important tools for communicating information, but often they’re incredibly boring to read. Inherently, a list is a simple data drop, meant to provide a reference but not typically to entertain (when is the last time you felt titillated by your shopping list, for example?) But infographic lists can be compelling. Graphics help to bring data points to life, like in the image below.
Accessible Science Did you ever think you’d understand nuclear physics? What about the difference between elementary particles? Sure, an infographic is simplified — we’re not talking about replacing college classes here — but for the layman desperate for a basic understanding of extremely complicated concepts, the infographic is king.
An Advertorial Message Advertising has completely saturated our lives; from television to YouTube, podcasts to pop-up ads, we’re inundated with flashy, obnoxious sounds and sights designed to sell us something. We’re so used to the barrage, we just tune out. This is bad news for advertisers. Increasingly, instead of promoting products with naked and annoying obviousness, companies are using infographics — offering actual information-based substance that people (including customers) may be interested to hear. There may still be ads embedded in the text (or in the subtext) but the experience is richer, more meaningful, and feels more respectful to the viewer.
Anni Murray is a writer, editor, multimedia artist, amateur mycologist, and biology student. She is currently working on Prism, a speculative science fiction story cycle. Follow her on Twitter.