They seem to be everywhere. Pick up a magazine or newspaper. Visit any news site. Check out your Facebook or Twitter Feed. Infographics are popping up all over the place. For those new to the term, infographics are information graphics. While some academics may argue that any graphical image displays information, infographics offer new ways to visually represent data so that statistics can be more easily digested and understood. Typically, infographics utilize colorful images and text to make really complex data simpler to understand. Wondering what an infographic looks like? Check out these examples.
Infographics as a field is not new. For centuries, mathematicians and scientists have sought new ways to display information. It is only over the last couple decades, however, that infographics has emerged almost as a form of art. Really complex and colorful infographics are shared virally online like a funny YouTube video or a witty meme. Beyond their social value, however, infographics can offer a unique alternative to the traditional paper or presentation assignment. Rather than assigning a large research paper, consider having your students create an infographic to display their research. Helping students be able to represent and interpret data is a critical skill for living and working in the 21st Century. As David McCandless says in his TED talk on Data Visualization: “We’re all suffering from information overload or data glut. And the good news is that there might be an easy solution to this. We just have to use our eyes more.” Infographics do just that.
If you’re wondering where to get started with an infographics project for your class, Angela Alcorn gives the following tips for people wanting to design their own infographics:
- Keep it simple! Don’t try to do too much in one picture.
- Decide on a colour scheme.
- Research some great facts and statistics.
- Think of it as a visual essay: ensure your arguments hold and are relevant.
- Remember that it’s all about quickly conveying the meaning behind complex data.
- Draw conclusions.
- Reference your facts in the infographic.
- Include your URL so people can be sure who made it.
While these would serve as a good starting point for instructors wanting to design a project using infographics, there are some great sites that would help with the visual aspects of an infographic project. Piktochart is one site that gives users all the graphical tools needed to create their own infographics for free. Visual.ly is another site that offers great examples of infographics and free, easy-to-use tools to create simple infographics. Another great starting point is a series of posts from the New York Times which feature infographic lesson plans and curricular ideas. While they are mostly designed for a K-12 environment, they can also give collegiate instructors some ideas for integrating infographics into the courses.