What is the Difference between infographics & Data Visualization?

Both infographics and Data Visualization are very powerful forms of visual communication.

For starters, let’s take a look at the definition for both, according to Wikipedia -

Definitions

“Information graphics or infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present information quickly and clearly. They can improve cognition by utilizing graphics to enhance the human visual system’s ability to see patterns and trends…. Infographics have evolved in recent years to be for mass communication….[1]

and

“Data visualization or data visualisation is viewed by many disciplines as a modern equivalent of visual communication. It involves the creation and study of the visual representation of data….

A primary goal of data visualization is to communicate information clearly and efficiently via statistical graphics, plots and information graphics. Numerical data may be encoded using dots, lines, or bars, to visually communicate a quantitative message. Effective visualization helps users analyze and reason about data and evidence. It makes complex data more accessible, understandable and usable….[2]

Summary

I have paired both of the definitions down for you, as they were much much larger blocks of texts. So in a way I have made both easier to understand, just like the aim of both infographics and Data Visualizations, make large amounts of information easier to understand.

Basically Data Viz is going to typically show you very large numbers in basic ways. Usually through simple and easy to understand dashboards. For instance Flowing Data made this Visualization fro the LA Times, about the amount of water used to create certain types of food -

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-water-hungry-foods-20150406-story.html

Data Viz will take raw numbers and usually compare them to other raw numbers.

Infographics on the other hand, will also take numbers and sometimes compare them to other numbers as well, but a big difference is that infographics will also tell a story. Typically there is a punchline or conclusion to the story. For example in classy.org’s infographic about Giving Tuesday -

https://www.classy.org/blog/infographic-givingtuesday-numbers/

Infographics will usually bring you along on a journey where the author wants to prove how something is good or bad, or perhaps teach you something. As where Data Viz typically shows raw data and lets the reader interpret their own ending or conclusion with the presented Data.

Creation, a simple overview

Infographics as well as Data Viz are very specific and customized per project. First the research has to be done, either by the person or company making the infographic/Data Viz or done and presented by the client.

Next, the Data has to be sifted through in order to know specifically which key pieces of information are worth sharing in the infographic/Data Viz.

Finally, here is the step where there is a fork in the road.

Infographic Creation

Infographics are typically made from scratch using a Vector art program like adobe illustrator. Some are created more in a icon style, others more in an illustrative style and everything in between. I talk more about this here.

Data Viz Creation

Data Viz on the other hand typically uses software to create the different styles of diagrams. For instance Tableau is one of the most popular programs for creating colorful and easy to understand charts.

Sometimes you see Data Visualizations embedded within an infographic, but you never see infographics embedded within a Data Visualization.

What’s right for you?

This depends on your goals.

Do you need compare large numbers or Data over time? This can be a great tool to persuade an audience. Typically Data Viz can be powerful if you are trying to convince an audience of something that they need further education on and your numbers show them otherwise from their initial opinion, which now you can backup with researched data.

On the other hand, do you need to teach an audience or tell them a story? Then an Infographic or series of infographics would be best for your online or printed content. Infographics are great when persuading an audience by showing them numbers in not so much of a chart, but more so by engaging them through illustration. It can be important to crunch numbers into illustrations or icons because 65% of the population are visual learners.

Both Infographics and Data Visualization can be very powerful and they can teach the world how to look at all sorts of different types of subjects in new and more engaging ways!

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