From the ultra simple to the dazzlingly complex, a panel of leading designers and data visualisation experts have nominated their favourite infographics
Last modified on Wed 23 Sep 2020 10.20 EDT
Alex Breuer, creative director, the Guardian
The best data journalism helps you to absorb a huge amount of very complicated information without it feeling like it’s an effort. I love how the Thatcher’s Legacy datablog shows you how the landscape of Britain changed during her years in power, but without adding any editorial comment other than the bare facts: you’re left to draw your own conclusions.
David McKendrick, director, BAM London
FAX color check: shirts on black
Edward Tufte is someone who inspired me (I ripped him off) numerous times at art school. I have never seen anyone ever come near his data visualisation. It got me though my degree. If I had to pick one thing it would be his T-shirt graphics. He has used these for loads of mental brainy things, but I used them for picking colours and in fact still do.
Angus Hyland, partner, Pentagram
Losses of the French Army in the Russian Campaign 1812-1813
According to Edward Tufte, who knows a lot about these things, the best statistical graphic ever drawn is Charles Joseph Minard’s portrayal of Napoleon’s invasion and retreat during the 1812 campaign of Russia.
The graph combines the size of the army over the time period across geography with temperature scale. The beige line represents the outward journey to Moscow and the black line the return. You supply the scale of human tragedy and the cost of a dictator’s ambition.
Craig Robinson, flipflopflyin.com
The 2011 World Series: St Louis Cardinals vs Texas Rangers
Basically, I wanted to record where the action happens during a series of baseball games. So, the pink lines are hits. As you can see, the majority are just singles. There are a few doubles, not many triples, and a few home runs.
The white parts indicate players and how far they ran when other players were batting. Other plays are other colours, and outs are grey.
The idea, really, is to try and have a quick visual way of showing if it was a close game or if one team dominated, aside from what the final score says.
Marissa Bourke, creative director, Harper’s Bazaar and Town & Country
Synchronological Chart of Universal History
Dazzlingly complex and a beautiful work of art in its own right, this chart by Sebastian Adams is the ultimate timeline. Spanning 5,885 years of history, from 4004 BC to 1881 AD (the year of its creation), it shows how different global events happened simultaneously – for instance showing that Richard the Lionheart was fighting in crusades for Pope Celestine III while Persia was swept by civil riots and Genghis Khan invaded China. Adams himself said it aided learning “through the eye to the mind” – which is what any decent infographic should be attempting.
Jeremy Leslie, creative director, magCulture
New York magazine’s Approval Matrix
The Approval Matrix is a diagram at the back of the fortnightly New York magazine, which charts the city’s cultural and political mores. Information that might conventionally appear in gossip column form is instead expressed in a mock serious diagram that maps events across an XY axis that runs from lowbrow to highbrow and despicable to brilliant. It provides an at-a-glance commentary on all of the week’s talking points in an absorbing, entertaining manner that is far more subtle and flexible than mere text. Definitely in the “brilliant/highbrow” corner of the graph.
David McCandless, author of Knowledge is Beautiful
Snake Oil Supplements? Scientific evidence for popular health supplements
Why? Because it lives! Four years after its creation, we’re still updating it as new (mostly debunking) evidence and studies appear. I love it because we’ve been absolutely meticulous in our evidence gathering, so it stands up.
Supplements are a $60bn industry, mostly built on snake oil. It’s great to supply a guide so people aren’t duped. But also you don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water – some supplements do work! It’s great to celebrate that.