Here’s our pick for the most spellbinding infographic we’ve seen in quite a while: A real-time chart of twitter activity around the world, created by Frog design. Tweets fall across the globe like rain. Just kick back and drool.

Among Bible scholars, it’s common knowledge that the Good Book is riddled with contradictions--events and histories laid out in one passage are often contradicted only a few pages later. You’d expect as much out of any book written by countless authors over hundreds of years. Still, that’s heresy to many Bible literalists, which meant that this remarkable chart by Sam Harris kicked up a firestorm.

Some of the most impressive infographics come as a result of unprecedented data sets. One case in point is this interactive chart created by Moritz Stefaner showing the results of poll that asked 1,400 people why they moved to or from New York. The result feels like a cross section of hidden lives-- and offers the pleasure of voyeurism without the guilt.

If we had one pick for the most portentous infographic of the year, it’s this one created by Gravity, a social-networking start-up. Draw from data in your lifestream--your tweets and Facebook posts, for example--it shows how intensely you’re interested in various topics, ranging from bands to hobbies. Then it maps those interests against other peoples’, so that you can find new stuff you might like--and so that advertisers can find their ideal markets.

We’ll admit that we were nervous when we held our Inception Infographic Contest -- the first few entries were really, really troubling. ("I found these graphics on the internet," wrote one person.) But we couldn’t have been happier with the eventual winner, Rick Slusher. The chart shows everything you need to know about the movie, from the various dream layers to the bending of time and the various "kicks" that deliver the characters from la-la land.

Infographics have the power to influence massive public policy decisions. One good example is this chart, which shows which countries get the best education from the least amount of money. With a chart like this, you can find your way to those countries whose education systems might serve as a model to others.

In a year where politicians figured out that they could use infographics to distort the truth, it was refreshing that some designers took it upon themselves to bring clarity to public policy. This chart broke down how you’d be affected by Obama’s healthcare reforms.

Once in a very long while, we come across an infographic that speaks to an entire world. Case in point: This chart by Eduardo Salcedo-Albarán, which shows the power structure of a Mexican drug cartel. The chart lays out the nefarious, ever-present influence of the gang, and speaks volumes about the true nature of the drug war in Mexico.

Social networking companies have produced a welter of data that we’re only know beginning to wrap our minds around. A good example is Foursquare. In this chart, Weeplaces used Foursquare data to find which bars and hang outs had the highest check-in ratios of men to women and vice versa--thus creating a guide to the best pick up spots in New York and San Francisco.

This chart bowled us over with the sheer number of stories living within its data. Summarizing the entire year of player performance for the San Francisco Giants, it shows exactly who was most valuable in the run that brought them a World Series championship.

Maybe the funniest infographic of the year was this one, by comedian and author Doogie Horner. The sprawling flowchart, commissioned by Fast Company, simply shows how you’d explain the internet to a Charles Dickens character.

Yet more proof of the powerful data that lies behind social networking sites: A map showing friend connections around the world, created by Facebook super-intern Paul Butler. What’s remarkable is how geography is an emergent property--and the map is nothing less than visual documentation of the friendships and connections that define our world.

Almost no one thinks of their city as segregated, but this remarkable series of charts by Eric Fischer explodes that assumption. Fischer color coded population figures for all of America’s largest cities, and created maps that show just how integrated or segregated each one has become.

13 of the Year's Best Infographics [Slideshow]

Nearly every day over the past year we've brought you our Infographic of the Day--the best designed, most interesting chart out there (that we saw!), chosen from a brimming sea of thousands. And among the hundreds that have made the cut, several have stood out. Some are remarkable simply for their design; others because of what they say about the world we live in. And still others are notable because they point to trends in how data will soon inform, enhance and impact our lives.

Here's 13 such infographics. We hope you enjoy!

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3 Comments

  • Jonathan H

    I really wish I could see the full versions or larger versions of the images in slideshows on this website.

  • Burke

    I find it odd that Sam Harris was honored, when the design was taken from Chris Harrison—that was even mentioned.

  • Thom Doorhy

    I read Fast Company because its quality so vividly stands out from other magazines, online or otherwise. Pedantic as it may sound, I am surprised by the number of overlooked typos in the text accompanying these slides. Spellcheck was obviously used as they are all words, just the wrong words.