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Why "Infographic Thinking" Is The Future, Not A Fad

Francesco Franchi, a master of information design, describes how "infographic thinking" goes beyond pretty pictures, and creates an entirely different sort of reading experience that encourages critical thought.

We get a lot of infographic pitches. Almost all of them suck. Why? Because while they may well be "information plus graphics," they often lack what designer Francesco Franchi calls "infographic thinking." This isn’t just "how to make some numbers and vector graphics look clever together." It’s a narrative language—it’s "representation plus interpretation to develop an idea," to quote Franchi. He’s the art director of IL (Intelligence in Lifestyle), the monthly magazine of Il Sole 24 ORE, one of Italy’s top financial newspapers, and if you look at his work, you quickly get the sense that he knows what the #*(@ he’s talking about. He lays out his thoughts on "infographic thinking" in this video podcast from Gestalten:

Franchi issues a lot of wisdom we’ve heard before—"If we don’t have content, we can’t have design," "You have to be informative but also entertain the reader," etc.—but he also distills the essence of visual communication down into some brilliant insights that go beyond art direction. He talks about "the nonlinearity of reading" an infographic, which is something that can set a true example of the form apart from its faddish imitators. Infographics aren’t like Powerpoint presentations — they don’t have to be one-dimensional. In the hands of a Fathom or a Felton, even a static infographic can feel immersive and interactive because of the way it offers multiple paths for discovering stories.

One of Francesco Franchi’s many amazing works. This one shows Chinese exports.

"Infographic thinking" doesn’t let designers to interpret a narrative visually; it lets them invite the viewer [to] join in the process of interpretation, too. It’s what makes infographic design a language, not a formula or a fad. And it’s what sets any superlative infographic apart—regardless of whether it’s hot on Twitter right now, or 200 years old.

[via Stellar Interesting; Image: Jakub Krechowicz/Shutterstock]

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  • Explainer Video

    Great article. I checked out Francesco's infographics, they are fantastic. It is definitely not an easy task to make a balance between statistics and graphics. 

  • Lee De Cola

    Floating between over-designed right-brained visualization and over-analyzed left-brain 'statistics' are simple, insightful datagraphics.

    Lee De Cola
    Data to Insight.

  • nrgsave

    China is the largest English speaking country - I believe - the writing is infographics - reaching back long before the invention of western laws - what happens when these two dominant expressives merge and move on rather than continuing down the entropy slope. 
    Infographics can get ideas across when there isn't enough time or contemplative and slowly awakening - they can inspire clarify or haunt us.

    Were moving from centuries of 2D to 3D in the past 40 years  - just being generally digested in the past 4 years - with 4 and 5D coming in the next few years. Let's not go back to sleep -goodnight.

  • Ben Saunders

     Would be essential for Web Analysts like myself to direct the artist in the creation of the story.  I don't think letting the artist or designer run the story should be the way forward.  Sadly there aren't enougth articles on how the designers set about creating an infographic when there should be.

  • Mike Wirth

    Queens University of Charlotte has an Advanced studio in New Media Design, that focuses on information design and data visualization.

  • joel rosado

    who is the second person that he admires? i couldn't tell from the audio, sounded like ottonografo

  • suxo30

    Infographic thinking and communication was utilized for several centuries by the mesoamerican cultures who may have learnt this designing art from someone else.  

  • Je Ho Lee

    I know one lady who majored in Information design in UK. Where are the good school for it?

  • Je Ho Lee

    Absolutely right. In science, we have used many graphs and tables, sort of info graphics. In social science, it works and makes people to get new insight about the informations they see.

    Je Ho Lee,MD,  Seoul, Korea

  • Mjkelley47

    "Infographic thinking" doesn’t let designers to interpret a narrative visually; it lets them invite the viewer [to] join in the process of interpretation, too. "Using a  sentence with appropriate also could help a bit.Cheers,Michael Kelley, D.Phil.

  • Je Ho Lee

    Like collective interpretation to seach for its meaning behind the numbers or facts...