Why have designers become fascinated with turning dry statistical data into sexy infographics? There seems to have been an explosion of infographics in the past couple years everywhere you turn. Are designers satiating the general public’s increasing interest in data or merely testing the use of new data visualization tools? Is it a trend to stay or go?

The image search displayed above illustrates the current overload of insular explorations on the topic of, yes, “infographics on infographics”.

And we did it, too. Check out our own infographic on infographics from a while back.

Infographic overload or is it a helpful communication tool?
The Atlantic senior editor Megan McArdle published an article in December decrying what she called “the infographic plague”—and the phrase may stick. Her big complaint: Most infographics are created by “internet marketers who don’t care whether the information in their graphics is right just so long as you link.”

But Adweek makes note that an appetite for infographics signals a broader appetite for data and more importantly tell a marketer’s story noting that, “data is one of the biggest brand opportunities out there right now, and yet so few brands are thinking this way.”

And what about using infographics as way to better educate? An intriguing piece in the NY Times lets you try out an interactive infographic in survey style on the topic of “How Your Views Compare with the Court”. Try it out here

Infographics in motion
Numbers and visuals can go beyond a static graphic to work just as well as a sequence over time. In this example, an infographic becomes motion graphic as an animation for Bloomberg Television’s special “Inside Coca-Cola” (which was nominated for the 2012 Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Graphic Design and Art Direction in News and Documentary).

The Economy of Coca-Cola from jot Reyes on Vimeo.

Historical infographics
As with many trends in design, styles reappear and regurgitate with a new twist—but infographics are not new. The example below from 1859 by Florence Nightingale, who has been described as a pioneer in the visual presentation statistical graphics, displays information in the form of a pie chart.

Nightingale-mortality infographic

This “Diagram of the causes of mortality in the army in the East” was published in Notes on Matters Affecting the Health, Efficiency, and Hospital Administration of the British Army and sent to Queen Victoria in 1858. This graphic indicates the number of deaths that occurred from preventable diseases (in blue), those that were the results of wounds (in red), and those due to other causes (in black).

History and archival collections inspire
infographic bibliodyssey

Is this image a shot of that expensive contemporary wallpaper for your SOHO loft or is it the latest exhibit from that artist at MOMA? Nope, it’s a geological map detail of Pennsylvania back from 1836. For history buffs and information design geeks, check out the bibliodyssey blog with a long scroll of wonderful “turn-of-the-century” visualizations.

So what about sexy?
Whether on a web page, brochure, newspaper or even in a public space, I see the use of infographics as a chance to pull in a viewer to read more by using a visual tease (certainly not a new communication method)—dangle the candy and attract. You get a few more seconds of absorbing content in an age of the quick scan or 10 second view that we allow ourselves in today’s surround of media. After all, the magic of design is to simplify the information, make it easier to grasp and understand while ideally enlightening readers with connotations, references, nuances, feelings, emotions and stories that make a message powerful.

OK. For those who need a quick fix of a sexy infographic each and every day, you can get one right here with an “Infographic Of The Day”.