Friday, March 20, 2020

Why not leaving data visualization aside for a few hours to design an explanation graphic?

I began my career in 1997 designing not data visualizations, but visual explanations—we used to call them “infographics”—using illustrations, 3D models, animations, etc. Here's an old example.

I still enjoy that type of work, and in the past few years I've repeatedly lamented its decline in news media—see 1, 2, 3, and my own dissertation. Nowadays, most news graphics desks, at least in the English-speaking world, are focused almost exclusively on data visualizations. I love data visualization, of course, but we shouldn't ignore illustration-based explanation graphics. They are powerful and useful.

Here's a good example: Our World in Data has just partnered up with the German animation studio Kurzgesagt, which has a popular YouTube science video channel, to design an animated infographic about how COVID-19 works. It's really good (I know it's good because my attention-challenged teenager watched it until the end and learned a lot):