Thursday, July 12, 2012

"Cool" and "Awesome" (Soviet) infographics

It turns out that modern "cool" and "awesome" infoposters (a term coined, if I am not wrong, by Connie Malamed) have illustrious —albeit unintended— precursors: Soviet-era infographics. Thanks to Maria Popova, I have just found a very nice collection in Ripetungi, a website that I recommend you to visit every now and then. The graphics showcased are taken from Duke University Libraries.

The stylistic similarities between USSR propaganda graphics and modern displays of skewed, cherry-picked, and grossly simplified data are striking. The funniest thing is that Soviet propagandists seemed to be more sophisticated in their understanding of statistical representation than their current heirs. One of the examples, for instance, uses what it seems to be a fixed-based index (the year 1937 = 100). This would be almost unthinkable among contemporary infotaiment designers, always willing to dumb their stuff down as much as possible.

1 comment:

  1. These Soviet agitpropviz examples are indeed uncomfortably similar to today's pop infographics. My partner, a former Sovietologist, noted that the Sov ones grew out of the State's need to communicate its interests to a largely illiterate populace. Symbols proved persuasive and facilitated control. Today's proliferation of catchy yet often misleading infographics targets intellectually illiterate populations. Another reason to consider the source as well as the content.