Written by: Courtney Daly

“We live in an age of data visualization. Go to any news website and you’ll see graphics charting support for the presidential candidates; open your iPhone and the Health app will generate personalized graphs showing how active you’ve been this week, month or year.” Clive Thompson brings to life the history of big data in his recent article in Smithsonian Magazine titled, “The Surprising History of the Infographic”. It’s been around a lot longer that we might think.

When I think of infographics, I typically think of creative illustrations with numbers and icons representing data. But have you ever wondered where they started? You may be surprised by what Thompson explains about exactly what infographics are and how they have shaped our world.

Simply put by Thompson, infographics are the visualization of data. I never thought of a map as an infographic, but that’s exactly what it is and maps have been around for 8,000 years.

As data became more available, infographics became more prevalent.

“In mid-19th-century America, one of the biggest social issues was slavery. And it was slavery that propelled some of the country’s most remarkable data visualizations: “slave maps.”… One trend immediately jumped out: eastern Virginia was the hotspot of slavery. The western region was comparatively slave-free. This suggested that the west would care less about fighting to preserve slavery; indeed, it might even switch sides and join the Unionists.”

Moving on to modern times, data visualization is more prevalent than ever especially in the midst of the current election. We assign people into categories that we can visualize on screen or in print: red, blue, elephant, donkey. A picture truly is worth a thousand words.

The evolution of data visualization has come so far and is still evolving. From geographical maps and slave maps to complex animations and the early stages of virtual reality, the infographic has a long history and is here to stay.14EPRI023_DMI_Updated_Draft 1

At IG, our name might bring to mind those traditional infographics I mentioned earlier, but they can be so much more than that. Next time you think of IG, think of data visualization, whether that is illustration of install steps, or complex animations guiding viewers like a map.

To read more of Thompsons article click here!

For more information on how we can make your data visual, contact Tim Wirtz or John Thigpen at 865-588-9888