A brief history of infographics
Most people have the perception that infographics are a relatively new concept in human history stretching back 5 or so years at the most. This however is false. If you take an infographic for what it is, which is a visual representation of data, then the concept actually stretches as far back as 25 000 to 32 000 years ago.
Ok what are we talking about, how could infographics have existed 32 000 years ago when we didn’t have shoes never mind the internet or design software? Two words: Cave paintings. Cave paintings depicting animals or the lay of the land are visual representations of data, i.e. infographics!
Charts changing the world
A more modern version of the infographic could easily be traced back to 1786 when William Playfair, an early innovator in statistical graphs, published The Commercial and Political Atlas. The atlas featured many bar charts, line graphs and histograms representing the economy of England, which is not totally unlike what many infographics do today.
Great people throughout history have always seen the value of detailing and representing complex concepts visually. One example is Florence Nightingale.
Renowned as the founder of modern nursing, Nightingale created the coxcomb chart and used it to persuade Queen Victoria to improve conditions in military hospitals in 1858. Her chart showed the number and causes of deaths during each month of the Crimean War.
An infographic is a visual representation of information designed to make the data easily understandable at a glance. People use infographics to quickly communicate a message, to simplify the presentation of large amounts of data, to see data patterns and relationships, and to monitor changes in variables over time.
Enter the modern day marvels
Moving closer to modern day infographics as we know them Edward Tufte, an American statistician and professor emeritus of political science, statistics, and computer science at Yale University, came to the forefront as the father of modern data visualisation with his book The Visual Display of Quantitative Information published in 1983.
By the 90s and 2000s informational graphics began to appear in newspapers and magazines. With the advent of charts in office-oriented software like PowerPoint and Excel and the explosion of easy-to-use data visualisation tools, the concept of the modern infographics started to find their way into academia and the business world as staple.
The history of infographics is actually quite extensive and we’d rather not bore you with it, however these quick elements are a brief overview of the evolution of the infographic as we know it today.