Infographics on my mind

Data journalist David McCandless believes that information design is about solving information problems. Visualizing information can help us solve these problems in a beautiful and clear way. In his TED presentation, McCandless visualized topics ranging from CO2 emissions to nutritional supplements (McCandless, 2010).

Because infographics share characteristics of business reports, they can also add a valuable visual component to the basic proposal or empirical report. Because they can be scanned quickly, they also can substitute for a traditional PowerPoint.

For example, the infographic below offers a summary of a simple Team Viewer human resources telephone survey that asked employees about their work-related technology use during vacation. Even though the graphics and colors are simple, this infographic communicates a message that surprises none of us: increasingly, we take our work with us. We can’t imagine being out of contact even for a week.

2013 Work/Life Balance of Americans

Of course, to really get at the heart of this data, it would help to have a break-down of age, gender, industry, and other demographics. We’d need to know more about the intentions behind this survey, and perhaps more about Team Viewer’s motivation and ethos (their product is used for remote desktop sessions). But if we just need a quick bit of data to help us understand this workforce issue on a basic level, the infographic might do the trick. The data are clear and usable.

Finally, it’s hard to talk about data visualization without marveling at the work of Hans Rosling, whose television documentary The Joy of Stats, used augmented reality animation to dynamically present data. In this video, he compares life expectancy and income across “200 countries over 200 years using 120,000 numbers – in just four minutes” (Rosling, 2010). The movement and size of the data dances up and down as the timeline is punctuated by wars, plagues, and economic dips.

Like David McCandless, Rosling believes that having the data is not enough. It must be visually communicated. Rosling’s animation tells the story of the world in all of its triumphs and trials. It’s heartbreaking to watch so-called Third World countries languish near the bottom for the entire 200 years. But it’s also reassuring to see that over the past 60 years, many countries caught up with the prosperity and health of Western countries. Hopeful news, brought to you by the power of stats.

Flippin (2013). 2013 Work/life balance of Americans.

McCandless, David (2010). The beauty of data visualization. TED Talks.

Rosling, Hans (2010). Hans Rosling’s 200 countries, 200 years, 4 minutes – Joy of Stats. BBC.


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