I’ve just taken an online course “Introduction to Infographics and Data Visualization” offered by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas and directed by Alberto Cairo who teaches Information Graphics and Visualization at the School of Communication at the University of Miami. The course was a great start into the world of visual storytelling. I would encourage everyone to have a look at recommended readings for Alberto’s infographics and visualization courses and – if you are seriously interested in data visualisation – pay attention to his new book “The functional art”.
Among other things, I was particularly impressed by the clarity which Alberto Cairo brought into distinguishing good infographics from bad ones. Here’s a list of questions used in the course which should help to gain a better understanding of infographics and enable you to quickly evaluate an infographic.
- Is this infographic really “functional” in the sense of facilitating basic, predictable tasks (comparing, relating variables, etc.)? If not, how could it be improved?
- Does it tell a story? What are the most important or surprising points in the data? Can we highlight them somehow? What do the data mean? What kind of headlines, intro copy, and labels could it include to make it meaningful for a broad audience?
- What other variables (if any) should be gathered/analyzed if we want to give an accurate portrait of the topic the graphic covers? Could we go beyond what is currently presented? Can we provide a better context for the data?
You could try and evaluate the following infographics according to these principles (examples from the course):
- Gay rights in the US, state by state
- Small arms and ammunition
- Visualizing information flow in science
Also, be sure to check out these free tutorials on data journalism by Knight Digital Media Center.
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