We get a lot of infographic pitches. Almost all of them suck. Why? Because while they may well be “information plus graphics,” they often lack what designer Francesco Franchi calls “infographic thinking.” This isn’t just “how to make some numbers and vector graphics look clever together.” It’s a narrative language–it’s “representation plus interpretation to develop an idea,” to quote Franchi. He’s the art director of IL (Intelligence in Lifestyle), the monthly magazine of Il Sole 24 ORE, one of Italy’s top financial newspapers, and if you look at his work, you quickly get the sense that he knows what the #*(@ he’s talking about. He lays out his thoughts on “infographic thinking” in this video podcast from Gestalten:
Franchi issues a lot of wisdom we’ve heard before–“If we don’t have content, we can’t have design,” “You have to be informative but also entertain the reader,” etc.–but he also distills the essence of visual communication down into some brilliant insights that go beyond art direction. He talks about “the nonlinearity of reading” an infographic, which is something that can set a true example of the form apart from its faddish imitators. Infographics aren’t like Powerpoint presentations — they don’t have to be one-dimensional. In the hands of a Fathom or a Felton, even a static infographic can feel immersive and interactive because of the way it offers multiple paths for discovering stories.
“Infographic thinking” doesn’t let designers to interpret a narrative visually; it lets them invite the viewer [to] join in the process of interpretation, too. It’s what makes infographic design a language, not a formula or a fad. And it’s what sets any superlative infographic apart–regardless of whether it’s hot on Twitter right now, or 200 years old.