The Basic Elements.
The purpose of bars, columns, temperature curves and pies - the basic elements - is to present quantitative information in a clear and easy manner.
“Before the humans learned to read, their knowledge was formed by word of mouth and its visual representation in the brain which demanded the activity of both cerebral hemispheres. The ability to read gave mankind access to a greater amount of knowledge, since reading as an abstraction of the spoken word separated knowledge from its individual creator and could be stored in books and archives and passed on to future generations. But reading is an activity which was not provided by evolution, which
means that the transmission of knowledge by means of reading is not very effective if it is not done with an enormous effort of concentration.“ So much to the intake of information by means of reading according to the brain researcher Ernst Pöppel.
Human beings are dominated by their sense of sight
So it is easy to explain why we get used to infographics from earliest childhood on. Children‘s picture books and schoolbooks for first graders contain coloured drawings, biology and geography books are full of cross section drawings and coloured charts.
Why have didactics been following this route? Reading, in principle, is a deviation since the human being is dominated by his visual faculties. And this has led to the central question in the training of teachers: How can we convey information to the students in a fast, interesting and versatile way? By converting dry texts into appealing graphic presentations and so help understand abstract matters in a faster and easier way.
When using infographics we follow what teachers have been practising for decades now: dividing big topics into smaller and more manageable bites and visualizing what is difficult to transmit in writing.
Ernst Pöppel on photos and graphics:
“Photos create closeness and emotion. (...) In any case, text and picture need to compliment each other. Information should be structured in such a way as to be digested with as little effort as possible. But one should always refrain from putting too much information in one graphics item because it will deter and tire the readers.” This is what Pöppel advised in a interview recently released in “Welt am Sonntag“.
Continuous development
In the past decades the media scene has gone through a considerable change. There is hardly a magazine or newspaper that, today, can do without infographics. They are widely accepted by editorial staffs and used wherever seen as a possible and sensible means of information. A further development in this area are animated infographics on the Internet attainable via mouse click. In infographics, contents and form are realised as a unity. The quality of both merge into one stream of information. Used in the right way, they are the quickest way of conveying knowledge.
On April 2010 Ernst Pöppel was quoted in “Stuttgarter Nachrichten” with the following statement: “Information by means of pictures goes with clearly less effort. Which is no wonder since half of the human brain is occupied with the processing of visual information.”
  • Info
    Basic knowledge
  • Each graphic item needs a heading.
  • Where do the data come from? Each item needs to be supported by a source.
  • Who is the author? Like any article or photo, graphics are made by someone, so a name or code needs to be supplied.
  • Graphics must speak for themselves. If a lengthy caption appears to be necessary the graphics need to be checked for accurateness.
  • Less is more.Too many graphic gags blur the target, namely to bring to the readers‘ mind what figures or events are supposed to mean.
  • This is why it has become a trend to clear graphics from unnecessary details.
Norbert Küpper ist Spezialist für Zeitungs- und Zeitschriftendesign. Er hat mehr als 100 Zeitungen neu gestaltet. Er arbeitet vorwiegend in Deutschland und Österreich, hat aber auch Zeitungen in Polen, der Tschechischen Republik, der Slowakischen Republik, Italien und den Vereinigten Arabischen Emiraten neu gestaltet. Im Rahmen seiner Tätigkeit hat er auch oft Stilbücher für den Einsatz von Infografiken entwickelt. In den letzten Monaten hat er unter anderem die „VDI-Nachrichten“, die „Stuttgarter Nachrichten“ und die Tageszeitung „Dolomiten“ in Bozen neu gestaltet.
Foto: Xymena Weiß-Gendera
Norbert Küpper
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D-40670 Meerbusch
Telefon +49 (0) 2159.91 16 15
E-Mail nkuepper@newspaperdesign.de