Infographic Guide To… series is published by Octopus Books and was released last year, 2014.
Infographics aren’t new – we’ve seen them as memes on the internet, we’ve seen them in our textbooks and we’ve seen them in presentation. So, it is no surprise that the presentation of information in graphic form has been around since… well since research on space in the 15 and 16oos, since cartography and navigation. The Infographic Guide to Life, the Universe and Everything‘s author, Thomas Eaton (each of the books are authored by specialists in their respective fields) credits Florence Nightengale (that famous nurse) in 1857 that used infographics to convince Queen Victoria to improve conditions in military hospitals, showing visually that poor conditions cost lives.
Now, I know what your thinking.
Are there going to be words? Where will the words be? Can there at least be one paragraph? I just need a few words!
*starts tearing out hair and wailing*
Well I too generally need words to understand what I am looking at. Creating and interpreting graphs and therefore graphics has never been my strong suit. I could barely draw a straight Cartesian plain without writing a paragraph explaining which one was the Y axis, and why it was dependent on the more straight x axis (I was trying to add a little creative flair to my graph, but I wasn’t doing a very good job, according to my maths teachers anyway). Needless to say, I am not very visually oriented.
So, while I do have to admit I was a little confounded upon opening the the Infographic Guide to Literature I was pleasantly surprised by the book which presented infographics about my beloved literature. Actually, I discovered that it was pretty cool! I just fell into reading through all 80 pages of fun facts and interesting statistics about literature (the visual on T.S. Elliot’s The Wasteland is pretty neat and more comprehensible than the poem, lol), authors (like George R.R. Martin, Tolkein and E.L. James) and about the book trade in general (how much paper, ink etc… goes into book production).
The Infographic Guide to Literature was my favourite in the series not only because I am in love with the written word, but also because I have some background knowledge into the world of literature and the book trade which really made the visuals relevant and easily readable to me. When reading through the Infographic Guide to Sports for example, I found myself at times simply not knowing what I was looking at – either I didn’t know a term, or I couldn’t fathom the significance or interest value in whatever fact they were showing me. This, however, was to be expected as I am very much not a sports fan.
While reading through the Infographic Guide to Life, the Universe and Everything I found myself somewhere in the middle. Where I loved the literature edition and was mystified by the sports infographics, this general interest book was both wonderful and, well, really random, for lack of a better word. I found the selection of information presented entirely unfocused, which is perhaps just a flaw in the concept behind this particular book. While Sports and Literature, Film and Music all have specific subjects, Life, the Universe and Everything features about twelve infographics about space (which is a lot in a book with only 80 pages), a comparison of the countries of the world’s chocolate consumption (France won!), a graphic about global vacuuming habits, how long it would take you to fall from various tall structures etc… etc… Among the variety were also some very familiar graphs, like an infographic comparing brain sizes from the smallest to largest living creatures and certainly some of the space graphics we’ve all seen before and weren’t incredibly ground breaking. And then there were a few that had me wanting more information about the infographic and it’s information, like the page which featured a graphic focussed on the ethnic diversity and activities of various global gangs: the mafia, the yakuza and the sinaloa cartel, which led me to wondering why they chose these three gangs and not others, and why this information and not what kinds of guns they use or who they target, what they do…. I just felt like I needed more information. I needed more words.
I really think this series is very interesting and such a great way to introduce a different, very visual way of looking at information. These books would be wonderful classroom tools – the visual interconnectivity of subjects like literature, sports and music with visual representation (art and design) and mathematical information, statistics and numeracy is just brilliant and can really be eye opening to children and adults alike. Not only could it lead to further study it could lead to tasks and projects that extrapolate the information given into different formats, written, visual, mathematical etc… stretching the creative and logical muscles of the readers mind. The books would also be great on your coffee tables and as books to bring on car trips and long waits at the hospital (or you know, those sorts of things (and this is a good thing not a bad thing!)) because it’s easy to spend time poring over the subject that particularly interests you. And what literature lover doesn’t want to show off a cool visual about Dickens to all of their friends?
There are flaws, as I mentioned. While the visual design of these infographics is stunning, the information presented may not be the most relevant to you (the reader, in that you would have liked to have been presented with something extra or different) nor may the point of a particular infographic (like how much power the Death Star needs to blow up planets) be very obvious or useful…
Yet, in these flaws lies room for more publications and for you to go out there and find more information and give creating your own infographic a try.