Infographics have been around for many years and recently the increase of a number of easy-to-use, free tools have made the creation of infographics available to a large segment of the population. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have also allowed for individual infographics to be spread among many people around the world. Infographics are widely used in the age of short attention span.
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In newspapers, infographics are commonly used to show the weather, as well as maps, site plans, and graphs for summaries of data. Some books are almost entirely made up of information graphics, such as David Macaulay's The Way Things Work. The Snapshots in USA Today are also an example of simple infographics used to convey news and current events.
Modern maps, especially route maps for transit systems, use infographic techniques to integrate a variety of information, such as the conceptual layout of the transit network, transfer points, and local landmarks. Public transportation maps, such as those for the Washington Metro and the London Underground, are well-known infographics. Public places such as transit terminals usually have some sort of integrated "signage system" with standardized icons and stylized maps.
In his 1983 "landmark book" The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Edward Tufte defines "graphical displays" in the following passage:
Graphical displays should
show the data
induce the viewer to think about the substance rather than about methodology, graphic design, the technology of graphic production, or something else
avoid distorting what the data has to say
present many numbers in a small space
make large data sets coherent
encourage the eye to compare different pieces of data
reveal the data at several levels of detail, from a broad overview to the fine structure
serve a reasonably clear purpose: description, exploration, tabulation, or decoration
be closely integrated with the statistical and verbal descriptions of a data set.
Graphics reveal data. Indeed graphics can be more precise and revealing than conventional statistical computations.