When The Lights Go Out, The World Eats Junk

If you thought your midnight snacks were a well-kept secret between you and your fridge, well, not so much. These maps show how healthy people are eating, on average, throughout the day, with green denoting good foods, yellow not-so-good ones, and red representing your Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and the rest. And what do they tell us? As the day goes on, our snacking gets less and less healthy. Even though you start out nobly enough with a banana and a bowl of granola, by 11 p.m. you’re eating crap. But don’t worry--so is the rest of America. Read more.

An Infographic Sculpture Shows Ocean Waves, Thousands Of Miles Away

Pulling data from an ocean buoy located thousands of miles away, David Maly’s "Tele-Present Ocean Floor" recreates the gentle rocking of the waves with a simple lattice of yellow metal. It’s probably the best sense you can get of the true motion of the ocean, from below, without a tank of air strapped to your back. Watch a video of it in action here.

A Gadget That Translates Any Object Into A Sound Wave

Any guesses as to what Dennis Paul’s work "An Instrument for the Sonification of Everyday Things" does? Yes, that’s right, it makes sounds from just about anything. By rotating objects in front of an ultra-precise laser rangefinder, depth and texture data gets turned into a unique (though not all that pleasant) tone. Watch it in action here.

Humans Are Just A Twig On The Tree Of Life

How did we get from the simplest primordial bacteria to the sophisticated race of Reality TV-inventing bipeds we are today? And how do we relate to everything that popped up in-between? That’s what this graphic shows--3.5 billion years of evolution in one gorgeous rainbow swirl.

The Data-Viz Story Behind Joy Division’s Legendary Album Cover

The cover for Joy Division’s 1979 album Unknown Pleasures became a pop culture icon, inspiring tributes in the form of t-shirts, posters, and a host of unfortunate tattoos. But what many didn’t know was that the enigmatic series of squiggles that made up the cover were in fact a breakthrough piece of data viz: the first recording of the emissions from a deep-space pulsar. Hear Peter Saville, the man who designed the cover, talk about it here.

50 Alternate American Flags, Each A Secret Infographic

Most don’t think of it this way, but the stars and stripes of the American flag constitute one of the most visible infographics in the world, representing the 50 states in the Union and the 13 colonies that started it all. With that in mind, the studio Mgmt. Design created 50 new American flags, each hiding one data point in plain sight while still maintaining that colorful, geometric look that defines flagdom. More here.

The Home Automation Panel That’s Infographic Art

Nest is definitely a step up from the ugly, unintuitive thermostats that came before it, but this concept, dubbed Serenity, takes home heating and cooling squarely into the realm of design porn. The system calls for an e-ink tablet for controlling your in-home temp, rendering functions as simple, elegant infographics. Read more.

Swimming’s Most Exciting Race, Re-Created In Pure Data

My exposure to top-level swimming is limited to the summer Olympics every four years, but even a neophyte like me can appreciate the intensity of the 50-meter freestyle sprint. No laps, no pacing, no turning--just one length down the pool as fast as your body can manage. This infographic turns that over-before-you-know-it madness into an elegant series of swooping lines, visualizing the 50-meter freestyle event in Barcelona, 2003, where Russia’s Alexander Popov beat Great Britain’s Mark Foster by 0.28 seconds to win the race. Read more.

Stamen Turns Facebook Sharing Into Intricate Digital Art

Earlier this year, Facebook gave the data viz specialists at Stamen a host of data related to three posts by Enterprise crew-member-cum-meme-master George Takei. These colorful, flower-like creations are what they came up with, showing social media sharing at its most beautiful and far-reaching (sorry, your status updates wouldn’t be quite as spectacular). Read more.

The 2,000 Most Important Films Of All Time

Cinema, as a medium, is complexly interrelated, with directors influencing other directors, films inspiring other films and genres occasionally giving birth to entirely new ones. But those relationships are far from being straightforward enough to fit in a standard family tree. Instead, HistoryShots put together this massive, sloping map of the 2,000 “most important films” of all tim, arranged by genre and release date. Get a closer look here.

The Map Of Truth And Deception

In a TED talk earlier this year, Pamela Meyer laid out an unsettling statistic: The average person gets lied to 10 to 200 times a day. Ben Gibson, co-founder of Pop Chart Lab, turned Meyer’s talk into this map, eschewing those hard data points for a topographical representation of the land of "truth," the land of "lie," and all the gray area in between. More here.


A Piece Of Software That Breaks Down Skateboard Tricks Into Data

With the help of an iPod Touch strapped to the bottom of the deck, Design I/O created a clever piece of software that turns ollies and kickflips into colorful, geometric maps of data. Just try not to grind on anything. Read more.


A Rig That Turns Guitar Licks Into Light Constellations, In Real Time

Rock concert light shows certainly add to the ambience, but wouldn’t it be cool if they were controlled by what the musicians were actually playing? That’s the idea behind Mesh Experience, a project by three German ID students that uses an infrared camera and pair of projectors to turn a guitarist’s licks into constellations of light, in real time. Light jamming results in a groovy disco-ball smattering of light where intense solos produce dense spiderwebs of it. Read more.


Google’s Flu Map Might Predict The Next Big Epidemic

Now that we’ve lived through the Mayan apocalypse, we can all turn our attention to the next big thing that’s threatening to wipe feeble humanity off the face of the Earth. It’s pandemic season, baby! And, of course, by the time you hear about it on the news, it will be too late (hint: it was the guy who sneezed a few rows behind you when you were seeing Les Miserables on Christmas Day). Thankfully, Google Flu Trends lets you stay on top of it all, mapping searches for things like "flu symptoms" and "flu remedy" to predict outbreaks in near-real time. More here.


A Machine That Turns Earthquakes Into Art

The earthquake that hit Christchurch, New Zealand’s second largest city, in February of last year was devastating both in terms of the lives it claimed and the damage it inflicted. But one group of students set about to turn its aftershocks into a thing of beauty. Their Quakescape 3D Fabricator listens for seismic activity and, when detected, paints it on a slab etched in the form of the Christchurch landscape. The more intense the activity, the closer the paint used gets to the red end of the spectrum. Read more.


A Graphic Tribute To The Designer’s Life

Sometimes, you get the feeling that more than, you know, designing stuff, what creative types really get a kick out of most is working in a studio space. London-based illustrator Ashwin Patel renders the experience and all the things it represents--from deception and discovery to sacrifice and success--in this graphic. More here.


Using The Olympic Rings To Show Vast Inequalities

The Olympic rings represent heady ideals of unity, interconnectedness, and diversity. Which is perhaps why this project, in which London-based designer Gustavo Sousa resizes and rearranges those rings to illustrate the staggering inequality in our world today, is so incredibly powerful. The simple graphics use the rings to represent things like the number of billionaires, the number of people living with HIV, and the number of homicides in each continent. Read more.


Pasta, Not Bacon, Makes You Fat. But How?

We’re always getting new info on what’s actually making us fat (everything, apparently), and recently, pasta and other carbs have come under fire (I play it safe and eat only a single packet of freeze-dried astronaut ice cream a day). This infographic makes the case that carbs, and not fats, are our true enemy, making our insulin levels go crazy which cause our cells to gobble up more fat than normal. Read more.


Red Meat Is Killing Us

But wait! Red meat is killing you, too. This unappetizing graphic boasts a number of meat-related stats, showing how consumption correlates to an increase in the likelihood of cancer and heart disease. Sorry, but I’m just ignoring this one. Read more.


Should You Send That Email? Here’s A Flowchart For Deciding

If you’ve been around the Internet for a while, you’ll probably remember a time when your relationship with email was much more formal. Subject lines were carefully considered (did anyone else capitalize the first letter of every word, like a book title?) and the missives themselves were meticulously punctuated. Now we fire 'em off like bottle rockets. And maybe we shouldn’t! This handy flow chart helps you decide if it’s really worth hitting "send." Read more.


Moneyball 2.0: How Missile Tracking Cameras Are Remaking The NBA

Can overhead tracking cameras do for basketball what sabermetrics did for America’s pastime? That’s what a company called SportVU is hoping--their cameras, repurposed from missile tracking-tech, hang in 10 teams’ arenas, giving coaches a sophisticated breakdown of player stats and behaviors, like the heat map seen above. See more here.


Gadgets Turn Your Weight Into Wall Art And Your Height Into Song

That whole trend of smart scales that broadcasted your weight to your social networks via Wi-Fi always struck me as a bit masochistic, but London-based designer Weiche Wu’s gizmos, which track developments in height and weight, are playful enough to make some sense. The modified scale, for instance, renders fluctuations of weight as a simple arc drawn on a sheet of paper. You can hang it on your wall--you just don’t have to tell anybody what it stands for. Read more.


The Astounding Power Of Pinterest

You know who had a good year? Pinterest. The red-hot social network grew like crazy, fortifying their hold on a shop-happy demographic without making any user-abusing fumbles like we’re used to from Facebook (and saw recently with Instagram). This infographic shows a feast of figures on all things Pin. Read more.


11 Of The Most Influential Infographics Of The 19th Century

Oh, you thought infographics were invented, like, last year? Hardly. In September, Susan Schulten previewed her latest book, Mapping the Nation, which traces the explosion of graphic knowledge in the 19th Century. Here she picks out 11 of her favorite old-school data viz projects. Read more.


A Gargantuan Map Of The Internet

The Internet is not as wild as it once was, with the bulk of users settling into a routine that includes a handful of hugely popular sites, like Yahoo, Twitter, and Facebook. But this map, which shows some 350,000 sites, is still bananas. The size of the circles is defined by traffic, and they’re positioned generally according to how they’re related. Read more.


Infographics Become Easy As Pie, With This Disruptive Font

For most of us, Excel is a problem more often than a solution. FF Chartwell could be our savior. It’s a typeface that allows the user to make elegant little graphs simply by typing in text. You’ll still need to know what you’re doing, data-wise, to produce meaningful results, but it does keep you from having to muck around in all those spreadsheets. See it in action here.


Ingenious Maps Of Humanity’s Real Footprint

We can rank and sort cities by geographic size or human population, but when you’re truly trying to get a sense of what life is like in a metropolis, you have to consider a combination of the two. It’s not just about how many people they are or how big the city is, but how those people are distributed throughout that area. That’s exactly what these maps show, depicting metropolitan population density as spidery splotches of black against plain gray maps. Read more.


Why Should You Care About Typography?

Why should you care about typography? Well, for one, it’s likely that different typefaces directly affect how we relate to the words they’re conveying. This multifaceted infographic does a nice job of laying out how subtle differences in lettering, spacing, and style can lead to hugely varied effect for the reader. Don’t risk being a type ignoramus; check it out here.

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The Best Infographics Of 2012

The quest to visualize the data around us certainly didn’t slow down in 2012, but the year did see a refreshing number of new approaches and applications. Here are our 29 favorite projects of 2012.

It stands to reason that we saw more infographics this year than any before in history. There’s definitely more data out there and, as evidenced by the diversity of projects seen here, designers are clearly up to the challenge.

Data viz has to be considered one of the fastest growing segments of design today, and thankfully, it’s growing in some exciting new ways. Where the Internet infographic was defined, for a period, by the dense, super-long column of facts and figures, we’ve recently started to see more projects that engage directly with data in novel ways—like the student-made rig that paints earthquakes in real time, or the lattice of metal, created by artist David Maly, that mimics the action of the ocean waves over a thousand miles away.

There’s definitely the risk of infographic overload, but with thoughtful, novel projects like those, we’re always game. So here are our favorite data viz projects of 2012.

Add New Comment


  • Aulie

    Infographics have been around for centuries. I think we can expect that the forms they take will continue to get even more creative and interactive. It will be interesting to see how they evolve.

  • Pierre La Baume

    Hey Kyle, 

    why is it called »Best infographics of 2012«? There are a couple of older projects in it. And I even miss the »new approaches« - many stuff looks like I've seen it many times before but thats maybe a personal impression. 

    Best, Pierre

  • Eric Thoelke

    Kyle, a correction: David Bowen is the artist that created the wave sculpture, not "David Maly". The original article was written by your contributor Tim Maly.

  • David Lee

    I agree, inforgraphics have really taken off last year and I don't see them stopping...just yet.