A brief history of infographic design

Posted on Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016 by

Following in our series of blog posts on the impact of infographics (see INFOGRAPHICS – MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR DATA), this post digs a little deeper into the history of infographics.

How old are infographics?

The word ‘infographic’ literally means information graphic – providing information in the form of a graphical piece of content. Cave paintings dating back to 30,000 BC portray animals, food, water and wider characteristics from the surrounding environment could be regarded as the first form of infographics.

Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics are 5,000-year-old versions of infographics, telling visual stories of life, work and religion.

Physical maps began making an appearance around the 1700s. It was around this time when the basics of measuring time, surveying, distance and map-making had heavily come into play.

Fast forward to the 1800s and maps became vastly complex. Charts and visualisation began making an impact in the world of data. Many forms of data representation we’re used to now were invented around this time, such as pie charts, line charts and histograms.

 Infographic design 1883 Victorian timetable

An 1883 Victorian timetable. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bibliodyssey/4198869259/sizes/l/

Florence Nightingale used infographics to persuade Queen Victoria to improve working and hygiene conditions in 1857.



Infographics history

By the time the mid-1900s came around, publications such as Businessweek and Popular Mechanics began adopting infographics to represent data.

More recently in 1933, Harry Beck used infographics when he famously created the first map of the London Tube as we know it today.

Infographics london underground

Infographics begin to develop slightly in the 1970s with a series of pictograms for the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.

Infographic design 1972 Summer Olympics

These pictograms were designed to simplify communication and make them a universal symbol of the sport they represented. Many of these are still widely used to this day.

Infographic design today

Infographics haven’t evolved hugely; they still provide a visually appealing message that is easier to digest than chunks of text and data. These days infographics are used to show a whole range of information – whether that’s to represent medical data, statistics or to show which social networks are used the most. 

According to Techinfographics.com, 90% of information taken in by the brain is visual and 40% of the nerve fibres connected to the human brain are associated with the eye. This makes infographics the optimal format for data consumption.

Outlook Infographic Client Relationship

An Outlook Creative Group infographic

The Outlook Creative Group has experience in creating interactive and static infographics, as well as data visualisation and motion graphics. If you’re looking for high quality infographic design, we can help.

Get in touch with us today to see how we can help.