10 Great Books That Will Help You Make Better Infographics
Infographics are peculiar in that they require mastery of a number of disciplines to be successful. Most obviously, creating an infographic involves graphic design, but it also involves a concept, of how such-and-such an idea is most effectively communicated, sometimes it requires a little statistical analysis and of course, there is usually some plain old-fashioned writing required.
The books I have selected below have all been produced by experts in one or more of these fields, as such, reading any one of them is bound to improve or inspire your own work.
1. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (Arrow): An infographic lives or dies by its content; the design may be beautiful but if the concept is dull, trite or nonsensical it will inevitably bomb. This book, by brothers Chip and Dan Heath, explains in no uncertain terms what makes for a good idea and, crucially, how to come up with one – essential reading for those looking to expand their audience.
2. Information Graphics (Taschen): A fantastic overall introduction to the field of infographics with design advice from industry heavyweights. With an eclectic mix of over 400 historical and contemporary examples this book is a treasure trove for those in need of inspiration.
3. Visual Thinking for Design (Morgan Kaufmann): Not necessarily an easy read but certainly worthwhile, this work by leading data visualization expert Colin Ware uses the author’s considerable knowledge of the science of cognition and perception as the foundation for practical advice any designer would be foolish to ignore.
4. Ways of Seeing (Penguin Classics): First published in 1972, painter and critic John Berger’s book on how we view art was an instant hit and has been highly influential. If you are looking to think outside of the box for a particular design, access to an artist’s eye will serve you well.
5. Rulebook for Arguments (Hackett): A short, straightforward guide on how to make a good argument and how to avoid a bad one. It might seem odd to think of an infographic as an argument, but by the author’s definition, which is “to offer a set of reasons or evidence in support of a conclusion”, they frequently are. Although the entire book is well worth reading, the sections on statistics and sources are particularly pertinent.
6. Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten (Analytics Press): The quintessential work on statistical charts, a mainstay of the majority of infographics. This book teaches the reader how to present quantitative information effectively and compellingly. Highly accessible, it is invaluable for those looking to design stat heavy infographics.
7. Thinking with Type (Princeton Architectural Press): A great typography handbook which contains everything you would ever need to know about a crucial infographic element.
8. Informotion: Animated Infographics (Gestalten): The only work of its kind, this reference book on the still nascent field of animated infographics employs design theory and a large collection of examples to outline the fundamentals and provide practical tips to designers.
9. Graphic Design, Referenced: A Visual Guide to the Language, Applications, and History of Graphic Design (Rockport Publishers): This book does what it says on the tin – an incredible reference work that showcases the best of the discipline.
10. Wordless Diagrams (Bloomsbury USA): Although an infographic is usually a combination of visual and text elements, this book shows just how much can be done without the latter. It’s also a lot of fun, with diagrams including ‘How to sit wave like a Royal’ and ‘How to practice putting your head into a tiger’s mouth’.
Chris Couch – Infographic Researcher: Neo Mammalian Studios