by Carmela Lapena
MANILA — Just as a pretty face without much to say is boring, so are infographics that forget their purpose. “It’s about information, and how images can communicate an idea,” said Nico Puertollano of Native to Noise and Flux Design Labs.
“There is a science to it. There is a structure to it,” Puertollano explained in his talk “Infographics: A Visual Language” at the adobo Design Series 2015 on March 24.
He began by showing how color and context can change the meaning of a shape, such as the way a black circle against a white background can become the Japanese flag, simply by being turned red.
The New York-raised, Filipino-born designer talked about how infographics used to puzzle people. “When we started doing infographics, we had to explain what infographics were. Now, because of the web, it just exploded,” he said.
He took the participants through some basic points, differentiating data visualization, information design, and inforgraphics. He also discussed the two types of thought on infographics: explorative, which is more of graphs and actual data, and narrative, which is found in editorial work.
According to Puertollano, explorative infographics only include elements that represent data. “It has to be clean and simple, no fluff,” he said, sharing a term coined by Yale University’s Edward Tufte: chart junk. “(The explorative infographic) seeks to communicate information in the most clear and concise manner,” he said.
On the other hand, narrative infographics are illustrative, design-focused, and seek to appeal to the viewer with visuals. The narrative infographic informs and entertains, following Nigel Holmes’ belief that entertainment value is necessary for people to absorb and retain infortmation.
Still, Puertollano warned against focusing on design to the point of sacrificing the message. “Just becaue it looks interesting, it doesn’t mean it does what it’s supposed to do,” he said.
He showed two infographics that inspired their company: Jonathan Jarvis’ financial crisis infographic , and the infographic for the film Waiting for Superman . One of the challenges of creating infographics is, as Puertollano put it, to tell stories that are engaging, and to take complex thoughts and make it simple. “A lot of it is explaining and visualizing information so the common man can understand it,” he said.
Infographics can be useful in various settings, in organizations as well as for national issues. Asking “how do we make graphic design change the world?”, Flux Design Labs came up with an infographic on the impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.
“We made it so you can understand what 1.3 billion pesos is. We showed what it equates to and what its relevance is to our lives,” he said. As with other early projects, this infographic was not commissioned, but it steered the company toward its current success, working with clients such as Google and CNN.
“Your passion projects can lead to real projects,” Puertollano said, echoing freelancer AJ Dimarucot, who also presented at the Design Series.