Alberto Cairo has worked in information graphics and visualization since 1997. First, as a director of infographics in Spain (elmundo.es) in Brazil (Época magazine) and, after that, as an educator in the United States, in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and, since January 2012, in the School of Communication at the University of Miami.
He is the author of the book The Functional Art
: An Introduction to Information Graphics and Visualization ,which will be published in September 2012. He has organized workshops about infographics in almost 20 countries. Cairo is on Twitter as @albertocairo and his websites are TheFunctionalArt
Now read Exclusive Interview with Alberto Cairo
:» Please kindly introduce yourself
I am Alberto Cairo and I teach information graphics and visualization at the University of Miami, although I am originally from Spain. I am the author of the book "The Functional Art
: an Introduction to Information Graphics and Visualization" which also has a website
. » What is Infographic in your opinion?
An infographic is a graphical representation of information. That means that it consists of encoding data and stories using graphic forms, such as statistical charts, maps, diagrams, explanatory illustrations, etc.» Why there is need for infographics?
We humans are a visual species. There are certain stories and facts that can only be understood when represented in visual form. Say you want to explain to a friend how to get to your place for a birthday party. The best way to communicate with him would be to draw a map on a napkin. There you go: that's an infographic. Or think about the changes in unemployment rate in a country: if you present that as a simple numerical table, it would be really difficult to visualize the ups and down, but if you represent those same data using a line chart, suddenly the trends become visible.» In your view what are the uses and the work fields of Infographic?
Infographics have multiple uses: in the media, to better communicate with readers. In business, to better understand and analyze their data. In government, to improve the understanding of relevant issues on the part of citizens.» Who are the addressee (consisting of individuals and organisations) of infographics?
Anybody, I would say.» If somebody wants to enter the field of infographics, where is the starting point?
The first thing, as I explained in my book, "The Functional Art", is to understand that an infographic is, above all, a tool for understanding. It's not just an illustration or a drawing. It needs to be functional before it can be beautiful and fun. You should care about structure before you care about typography, color palettes, etc.
An infographic is a visual arrangement of information that is designed to see things that the bare eye would not be able to see, to understand trends and patterns in data, to visualize stories. Then, learn a bit of journalism, graphic design, statistics, cartography, and some software, such as Excel, Adobe Illustrator, etc.» Which kind of process for Preparation and producing infographics is needed, is it an individual or a team work process?
It all depends on how complex the infographic is. Simple charts, maps, and explanation diagrams can be made by a single person. More complex interactive visualizations are usually created by teams of people with different skills, such as designers, programmers, etc.» Is Infographic definition the same in everybody’s opinion and in general sense?
In a general sense, yes. But not in the specifics. For instance, I don't think that a simple bunch of numbers surrounded by some illustrations or icons is a real infographic, but just a (sometimes) nice-looking layout. To create a real infographic, you need to give context, explain a story, allow some exploration of the data that you are presenting» What are the main concerns facing the future in relation to Preparation and designing infographics.
In general, a designer that wants to get into infographics needs to stop thinking just as an artist and think a bit more as an engineer, someone whose job is to organize and arrange data and information to be presented to an audience. This means, as I said before, that you should take care of structure and narrative before you think about aesthetics and visual style.