Visualization is growing up

Posted to Visualization  |  Nathan Yau

For a while, somewhere in between 2007 and 2011, infographics — in the everyday person’s sense, not the statistician’s — were all the rage. They came in lots of shapes and sizes and covered a wide span of useful to useless topics. While these sort of graphics are still around, they’re dwarfed by a different brand of work these days. A more mature one.

Mark Wilson for FastCompany describes the evolution. (Disregard the “What Killed The Infographic?” title of the article. Spammy embedded infographics are slowly dying, but the good stuff is a young whippersnapper discovering its powers.)

Infographics, it seems, are a dying breed. Except that in talking to a dozen data visualization experts across the world’s top studios, I learned that the story is far more nuanced. Once a playground for independent designers, data visualization has evolved into something more mature, corporate, and honest about its failings. The quirky, experimental infographics that once peppered the Internet may be disappearing. But that’s only because data visualization, as a medium, has finally grown up and gotten a job.

Well, became a job.

The same could be said about data-related fields in general. Data science, statistics, data journalism, information design, and visualization are evolving quickly (because of new data sources and availability) with plenty of overlap. So a lot of the time the work we see is as much about the analysis as it is the visualization. Sometimes they’re the same thing.

But hey everyone, let’s not mature too much, okay? Fart jokes are still funny. Always will be.

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