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Data Visualization vs Infographics

In the last couple of years, information has become much more visual online. Items like infographics and visual data are easy to share, often go viral and so have a lot of staying power on the web. Not to mention how simple it can truly be to get the point across when you have accompanying images to relate to your viewers.

But what is the difference between infographics and data visualization? Aren’t they the same thing, and if so, why do they have different names? The short answer is that they are not the same, and actually differ quite a bit in content.

Infographics

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An infographic is an item that sets out to illustrate information and data through storytelling. It builds on an original concept, and presents all details in an easily understood way. Most of the time they have been done from scratch, sometimes even using hand drawn images scanned into a computer.

The information provided cannot always be verified, and so it is important to connect it to sources. But because infographics provide context to all data, this is simple to do.

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An example of an infographic is this nifty one about social media. Notice that it uses multiple forms of graphs and charts, but an interesting color scheme and logos to help draw attention to itself.

This example via Best Free Online about social media spread in China uses a more illustrative style. Fun pictures, lots of colors and different metaphoric images work to create a more dynamic looking infographic.

A good source of infographics for your blog is MyBlogGuest infographics gallery that offers you lots of free content for using.

Data Visualization

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On the other hand, data visualization is not so personalized. It is also not created to tell a story, but rather to give the viewer the tools needed to create their own. Think of it as raw data, there without any context and waiting to be used in any medium that the viewer would choose.

These are often presented in graphs and charts. Maps are another example of a form of data visualization. However, some are more dynamic, and we have seen some really cool examples of modern data visualization on the web in the last couple of years.

A cool project is Narratives 2.0. It is a visual graphic that works by taking music and showing it as a waving, energy-structured fan across the screen. As the notes play, the fan moves across the black background with bright colors and hypnotizing movements meant to represent the music itself.

Conclusion

The difference between data visualization and infographics is wide gap. But both are great means of showing off information, and you can learn a lot from either.

Do you know some good examples of either of these visual graphic types? Let us know in the comments.

Comments on this Article: 3

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  1. I agree that data visualization and infographics are different things but I disagree that data visualization doesn’t tell a story. I argue that data visualization is the interpretation of raw data in a visual format (which may or may not tell a story) and that an infographic is the blend of data and image for the purpose of using data (or even data visualizations) to make a point, to persuade, to sell something, or give a perspective. With infographics we can change the meaning of data without changing the figures through the use of visual rhetorical devices such as color theory, image-number association, typestyle, etc. Both can be problematic because data is ultimately an abstraction from the truth, only things which can be quantified are counted, and both rely on data collection which is a whole other problematic issue. How do we know we have asked the right questions, measured the important things, collected enough data and information, etc.? The medium is the message, data is the medium, nothing is true, everything is permitted.

  2. Interesting post. I think both the terms are interchangeable to some degree but yes there can be a gap if you look for it.

    One thing that disturbs me a little though is how some normal, spruced up graphics are passed as infographics. I think there needs to be substantial info in the graphic to actually warrant the proper definition.

  3. I almost whole heartedly disagree with your post. I believe information design principles should persist no matter what delivery method you choose (eg. data viz v infographic). Also, both are for telling stories, just ask Cole: http://www.storytellingwithdata.com

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