Friday, October 19, 2012
Infographics – communication going backwards or forwards?
When I was in high school I worked after school in our elementary library. While shelving books, I took the opportunity to read many of them. I was especially drawn to the fables, but I also developed an appreciation for story books. Why? It’s not that the stories were so great – like a fable. There is rarely a moral to the story in a picture book or tragic characters like there are in fables. I am guessing it was the pictures . . . ya think? In many books the art work was fantastic. I was also intrigued by how they could tell the story with both pictures and words – often the pictures said more. Let’s keep in mind this was a few decades ago – no internet or digital clipart. So, we are talking old school picture books.
Fast forward to now. I am sure there are still picture books, but story telling has gone digital, as has the presentation of most information. The big thing right now in digital communication is the infographic.. Have you seen them? (Infographics on Google) They are certainly visually stimulating. Infographics are a graphic or visual representation of information – beyond the pie chart or PowerPoint or Prezi. They are an iteration of our visual language. Cool, right? Professionals who create these are called information architects – a phrase coined by Richard Saul Wuman, co-founder of TED.
I look at these and think how fun they would be to make. I think my students would love to do this instead of an essay or a book report, any day of the week. And then I think . . . what a clever little trick that would be. Students would be working ten times harder to share the same information. Have you tried putting one of these together? Holy cannoli! They may look cool, but that is a whole lot of work for something that is meant to be consumed quickly. There are web tools out there that walk you through the process, but none of them help you make infographics that look as awesome as the information architects make them look.
I haven’t tried all the tools that are out there, but the ones I have tried, I am not all that impressed with. One tool that I see referred to a lot is http://piktochart.com/ . Not hard to use, but again, not super dynamic looking. Now, there is the pay version – maybe that’s where they keep all the gold.
Bottom line – they are cool. I like the ones that have a bit of humor to them. I can’t help thinking they are basically one page picture books. Is that a bad thing?