Data visualisation is a true skill. An effective infographic needs to prioritise and organise complex data in a way that reveals the important trends and links, as well as being legible and easy to follow. And it needs to look good at the same time.
In this article, we've rounded up the very best new infographics from this year so far. These creations celebrate the different ways infographics can be approached, and the different purposes they can serve. For even more inspiration, take a look at our guide to the best infographics of all time.
01. The Network Effect
As part of its 10-year anniversary issue, Wired magazine wanted a visualisation that explored how the UK tech industry has grown over the past decade. This complex creation, by designer James Round, plots the relationships between the biggest players in the tech scene, including information about how they are connected and the nature of their relationship.
It involved wrangling a huge amount of data into an attractive chart that would remain legible within the confines of a double-page magazine spread – a tricky challenge by any standards. However, Round is no stranger to infographic design. The final chord diagram is easy to follow whilst clearly conveying the intricacies of the industry it depicts.
"One of my favourite things about design is being able to take something complex and present it in a clear, engaging, and beautiful way. For clients, it provides the perfect medium through which to tell a captivating story in a way that stands out and looks awesome," says Round. "Nowadays we're bombarded with so much information and sometimes it's hard to take it all in. Data visualisations can cut through that noise in a way that really connects with an audience."
02. When the World Celebrates
This beautiful infographic comes from Hamburg-based Bureau Oberhaeuser. It offers a new take on a traditional calendar; one that promotes unity by exploring how different nations around the world celebrate.
The concept behind the design came about when, on brainstorming calendar ideas for 2019, the team at Bureau Oberhaeuser noted that the new year is a holiday that is marked by almost every nation. The realisation caused them to wonder which other holidays were shared around the world.
"Always in such a project, one of the most challenging aspects is collecting and sorting through the data itself, and deciding how to shape it," explains senior designer Sean Loomis. "This project was no exception."
Because there was no existing accurate dataset to be found, the team manually gathered information from a range of different sources. The final design features only the holidays celebrated by each nation as a whole, but does include any and all territories the studio came across – not just the 195 countries recognised by the UN.
"When you see all of the data presented so clearly, there are very interesting insights one might derive from the topic," adds Loomis. "We're always intrigued by how visualising data can lead to new perspectives on the information that would never have been realised before."
Most infographics deal with sorting external data of some kind, but for this visualisation, NY designer Shangning Wang turned his focus internally. Inspired by a Samuel Butler quote – "Every man's work... is always a portrait of himself" – Wang's Self-Portrait infographic maps the influence of different well-known designers and innovators on his own professional growth and design aesthetic.
Stylised charcoal portraits of the different figures – including such greats as Stefan Sagmeister, Shangning Wang and Paula Scher – surround the designer himself. Integrated images reveal the visual influences on Wang's own designs. "Why did I choose charcoal sketches? Before I became a graphic designer, I spent eight years learning to draw," says Wang. "Through drawing and analysing myself, I was able to have the context of my experience."
This self portrait only covers Wang's design studies from 2007 to 2014. If he extends the visualisation to 2019, he plans to add more female designers and artists to the list.
04. Space Junk
This mega infographic takes on an equally whopping subject matter: space. Created by Turin-based information designer Federica Fragapane for BBC Science Focus, the data visualisation explores anything you might want to know about space junk. A range of charts cover the different types of debris, their average distance from Earth, and their mass in tons. There's a serious lesson to be learned here – space debris has been increasing over the past few decades, and could result in more collisions if not kept under control.
"When I work on visualisations with different layers of information – as the Space Debris BBC Science Focus one – I think about them as a visual equivalent of long articles," Fragapane tells us. "They allow to explore a topic in its complexity, giving the readers the possibility of reading it with different levels of analysis."
She thinks of designing visualisations as being similar to writing, but using a visual alphabet – symbols rather than letters. "Such alphabets need a clear legend to be read and understood – this is why I dedicate a lot of time to the design of a visual key," she adds.
05. Data Xmas
It may seem like a nice problem to have, but many PR companies find themselves drowning in gifts when the festive season rolls around. How do you get your recipient to notice your efforts (and remember your studio) in the sea of slyly self-promotional gifts? Say it with chocolate, of course.
For its 2018 Christmas gift, Auriga created four different edible, festive infographics. "Data is not physical and sometimes it's a bit difficult to understand. That's why we turned it into something that can be touched, something that everyone likes, and which is also very easy to digest. Chocolate," says the studio on the Behance project page.
The fun mini-infographics include the average time spent listening to Christmas carols (5-10 hours… seems low to us); average household spending on gifts (ouch); and the best-selling Nativity scene figurine (a not-so-festive Donald Trump, apparently). A masterful piece of self-promo if ever we saw one.
06. Inside information: Vox AC30
This one is perhaps stretching the definition of 'infographic' a little, but we loved it so much we just had to include it. The design, from UK-based studio Dorothy, is a celebration of the Vox AC30, which quickly became the amp of choice for bands like The Beatles, The Kinks and The Rolling Stones following its release in 1959, and continued to grow in popularity ever since.
"Rock'n'roll history is full of defining and important moments and we wanted to imagine those moments all appearing together within a classic object," says Dorothy's James Quail. "We imagined all those moments happening inside a Vox AC30 – the amp which was pivotal to the sound of the British Invasion, and so closely associated with The Beatles."
This intricate infographic captures 40 of the most pivotal events in musical history. Look closely and you can see everything from The Beatles’ gig on top of the Apple building to Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, and The KLF burning a million pounds.
"The process behind the print involved plotting out the moments that meant something to us and collecting them all together and sketching out a plan," continues Quail. "From that point we work together with our good friend, the fantastic illustrator Malik Thomas, who brought it to life."
It's realised as a massive 50x70cm, 3-colour litho print. Dorothy has a whole load of beautifully clever infographics, on sale as prints, which are well worth exploring. See the full infographic in detail here.