Infographics – The Story of Big Data

This week we spent time jumping into the ever expanding world of interactive infographics. As humans we are wired for visual processing. Research has shown that graphics, images and illustrations help us retain information better, assign meaning faster and understand complex relationships with greater efficiency and comprehension.  

This is powerfully represented in the beautifully designed infographic “13 Reasons Why your Brain Craves Infographics”. As the microsite explains, infographics are important in the age of social media because since 1986 there has been 5 fold increase in the amount of information we receive each day. The site reveals that on average we consume 34 gigabytes of information or 100,500 words outside of work per day,  and that on any given website we read only 28% of the written content. Except for this post of course. Everyone will read more than 28% of this.


This means that well designed infographics are crucial to any effective communication strategy or marketing campaign. But what goes into making a successful infographic? A couple of years ago the Harvard Business Review published a compelling article entitled, “What Makes the Best Infographics So Compelling”, in which they interviewed Gareth Cook a prominent writer and editor who publishes an annual book on the year’s best infographics. Below are some of the key takeaways from the article:

  • They allow users to quickly identify patterns in massive amounts of data with ease.
  • They make seemingly abstract ideas “convincingly concrete”.
  • Extraneous details and information have been removed so as not to overwhelm the viewer.
  • Users discover unexpected information and connections as complex ideas or processes are discovered and information is seen in new ways.

In addition to looking into the science behind the power of infographics and what makes them effective, we also compiled a list of our favorite infographics related to issues affecting the MENA region.

The Path of Protests

In 2012 the Guardian newspaper published an interactive timeline covering the events of the Arab Spring as they unfolded across 18 countries. With a scroll bar that moves you across two years worth of events, users get to explore key moments in the uprisings broken down into the following four categories:

  • Protest/govt response to protest
  • Political move
  • Regime change
  • International/external response


Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Pitch Interactive worked with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism to create an infographic, which documents the casualties of 11 years of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan.  The animated graphic takes viewers through a timeline of events influencing the number of drone strikes and the tallies of casualties broken down by Children, Civilians and High Profile targets.  The infographic allows users to visually see the impact of the U.S. drone program in Pakistan over time.


The Flow Towards Europe

Is a hauntingly beautiful yet devastating  infographic which shows the flow of asylum seekers to Europe over the last four years.  Each dot represents 25 people moving from a country of origin towards a second country in Europe.  As you move your cursor over countries a counter will pop up showing either an outflow or an inflow into each country changing over time. It powerfully conveys the geography and magnitude of the migration flows.


FEAR, Inc.

This year Vignette Interactive was nominated for a Webby award for its work with Center for American Progress on a microsite exploring the $57 million network fueling Islamophobia in the United States. We worked with the Center for American Progress to help users explore flows of money and connections between foundations, organizations, propagandists and politicians who spread Islamophobia in the U.S.


Syria Visualized

Syria Visualized is a website with multiple interactive infographics walking users through the Syrian conflict. The website is the product of a visualization class offered at Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The infographics allow users to explore topics like the various fighting groups, displacement of civilians and how violence is spreading in Syria.



By Dave Thatcher

Dave is currently a student Metropolitan State University of Denver focusing on convergent journalism and multimedia advocacy studies. He has a strong interest in emerging digital storytelling techniques and new ways to achieve audience engagement and social impact through multimedia. Prior to his multimedia studies, Dave spent several years working in the field of refugee resettlement in the United States. Additionally he worked abroad in Sub-Saharan Africa as protections specialist for human rights defenders. In his spare time, Dave can be found wandering the winding streets of Istanbul in search of the perfect cup of coffee.

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