What Works: A Data Vizualization Or An Infographic?
PSFK speaks to the founder of design agency After The Flood to understand better ways to bring data to life.
Any PSFK reader no doubt is aware of the trend of using infographics to describe anything from employment to Chinese web consumption. These quick-to-read data-driven designs are shared across the web at speed and they seem to be churned out by so many organizations that they have become a fad.
In some ways, the infographic seems to be the 2012 equivalent of the viral video. We guess that’s why the work of the UK based design agency www.aftertheflood.co stood out to us. Their moving data-vizualization of what has been a tired story (the Titanic’s journey) and recast this history in a compelling modern way. We spoke to the Founder and Design Director of the agency, Max Gadney, to discuss the work and the trend of bringing data to life:
Can you explain what After The Flood does?
We specialize in data experience design. We make software, apps or video that help our clients, like BBC, Edelman or UEFA communicate their data better.
We want to grow our analytics practice, doing work that helps companies use their data better. We are happy to do serious work – we’ll leave the wacky stuff to those who want to do cute infographics.
We recently reported on the amazing Titanic video you produced for the BBC History site. We must have heard the story about the ship a thousand times — but why did you think your video was still so compelling to so many people.
Most Titanic anniversary media was a lazy rehashing of common tropes. We always look for a key concept to guide the videos we do based on thourough research and understanding. This one was about technology versus nature – and everything from the script to visual style spoke to that. We plan every fraction of a second – and the process requires constant direction and iteration. It is a video for the BBC and so the standard had to be the highest.
It resonated because it avoids the common conspiratorial clichés of the story and also seeks to dispel the myth of no-one below decks surviving. As designers we need to find the difference in every project – and we believe that the difference is in the content and story – and that the visuals need poetry and style but all in service of the content.
We’ve seen a big trend online in terms of the use (and sharing) of infographics. What’s the different between data visualization and info graphics.
Data visualizations require more work and sifting by a user, in order to find patterns and insight.
Infographics are a quick and popular way of communicating that insight.
Unfortunately what happens is that many designers do complex DV work when accessibility is required and glib infographics when depth is desired. None of the above is helped by the fact that information design has now become a fashionable stylistic motif in graphic design – rather as a tool for communication– which also confuses the debate in this nascent discipline.
There’s this huge wave of data surrounding our lives – and we’re seeing applications begin to take advantage of what’s available to provide some pretty sophisticated services that present themselves in an intuitive way. Is there anything out there that rocks your boat?
I think the advances in Social Network Analysis that you see in firms like Palantir or the start-up Keylines are interesting. In the public realm, films like Iron Man 2 are spending a lot of time and effort in their data product concepts.
What would be your perfect next project?
In our first two years we are concentrating on working with good clients and trying to get good work out there. We love doing video so the bigger there story the better — lets do a feature length film – or something in Iron Man 3. Aside from that, we have a genomics project on the horizon and health is an interesting and important place for us. But where ever people are serious about wanting to communicate rather than decorate, that is where we want to work.
We’ll also have work launching through the summer so keep an eye on www.aftertheflood.com