The Most Informative Picture Book (Final Draft)

I think this is the most information I’ve ever learned in such a short amount of time. This book is full of so many infographics spanning so many disciplines that it is almost overwhelming. Each graphic has something unique to offer, whether that be thought provoking information, aesthetic beauty, or innovative ideas. While there is certainly a lot to say about this whole book, I’d like to focus my attention on several infographics that really spoke to me.

First is the graphic called “Gay and in the Closet” on page 32. I love this one because it is extremely eye-opening. The main purpose of the graphic is to show that there is a relatively equal percentage of homosexual men across the country; and that how many men go public with their homosexuality depends on the level of tolerance in their region. But I see something different. I see that even in the most tolerant states less than half of the total homosexual population is out of the closet. These numbers are undoubtedly not 100% accurate (because there is no scientific way to find out how many men are secretly gay), but the fact still remains that the United States has a long way to go until tolerance of homosexuality is at an acceptable level.

I also found a cool (and slightly unnerving?) video of The Existential Calculator (page 34) in action.

The second infographic I would like to mention is “The Hunger Strikes at Guantanamo Bay” (page 50), which provides an almost too detailed description of the implementation of the nasogastric tube that would make anyone squirm in their seat. The amazing thing about this graphic is that it manages to convey information about such an emotionally charged issue without forcing an opinion on us as readers. I believe this is something we discussed in class; the nuisance of an author telling his or her audience how they should feel about something. This infographic is a great example of avoiding that and just presenting readers with facts.

This next graphic is one that I found just beautiful on a number of levels; called “Fields of Commemoration” on page 86. This piece combines historical fact and emotional impact in a powerful way. Even when viewed simply as a work of art it is remarkable; almost like a field of poppies being blown in the wind. Looking at this graphic fills me with a sort of remorse for all of the lives lost in 20th century wars, but I am also glad that such a tribute exists to commemorate their sacrifices.

Poppies are often used in memorials to commemorate lives lost in war.
Poppies are often used in memorials to commemorate lives lost in war.

The fourth graphic, “Angular Size” on page 124 actually confused me at first. I knew it was trying to show something really cool about space, but I just wasn’t sure what. I had to read an explanation of angular size online in order to understand it. Angular size is obtained by multiplying the radius of the Earth by the diameter of an object and then dividing by the distance to the object from the center of the Earth. While this may seem confusing, it helped me realize that what this graphic is trying to show is that even though these celestial bodies are massive, their extreme distances from Earth make them seem insignificant relative to us. As it turns out, the author of this graphic actually draws web comics, which is why he chose not to bog down this comic with complex scientific explanations and just draw pictures instead.

Certainly one of the most remarkable things about this book is the interactive infographics previewed at the end. I spent at least an hour exploring all of them online, and I encourage everyone in this class to spend at least some time doing so as well (here’s the link). The interactive graphic that interests me the most is the Racial Dot Map (page 138) because I have lived in such vastly different regions of the United States and it is interesting seeing how the demographics of those regions differ.

From left to right: Miami, FL; Middlesboro, KY; Pittsburgh, PA
From left to right: demographics of Miami, FL; Middlesboro, KY; Pittsburgh, PA

Moving forward with the infographic project and with my research this semester I will certainly keep The Best American Infographics in mind. Infographics are the perfect way to convey information to a large audience. One thing that makes them so convenient is that the information can be layered so that the viewer can decide their level of comprehension.  For example, a viewer could look at “To the Moon and Beyond” (page 92) on a number of different levels. The first shows simply that we as a planet have sent more missions to the Moon, Mars, and Venus than to any other planet in our solar system. The second allows the viewer to learn the numbers and types of missions to each planet and their relative dates as well as which organization was responsible for them. The final level involves reading all of the blurbs of information scattered around the graphic to get the full picture. The examples in this book serve as great models for what a successful infographic should consist of: a design that is easy on the eyes, a logical layout, and the ability to be comprehended with minimal effort on the viewer’s part.


One thought on “The Most Informative Picture Book (Final Draft)

  1. Noel February 1, 2015 / 12:29 pm

    Lara, this post provides a nice overview of the book—you’ve given us a good selection of infographics to focus on on Wednesday. I don’t have much to say, except that I wanted a couple more visuals to go with your post—a tricky thing, I know, when you’re talking about selections from the book. But what about a screen shot of one of the interactive infographics found online? Or, you’ll notice in the book that each infographic has a short note about where and when it was published, so you could also go to a couple of these original sources to pull screen shots or jpegs for your post. For instance, when I searched the Gitmo hunger strikes graphic at National Post, I found this: It’s not the same graphic as the one in the book, but one that must have complemented the Force Feeding graphic—kind of cool to see this one, too. I suggest opening your post with some sort of visual in order to get our attention—we are gluttons for visual stimulation—and perhaps choosing one more visual to include in your post later on. Thanks for the hyperlinks—very useful!

    Good work!


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