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Monster data delivery

We all love an infographic, right? But do we all understand that they can do so much more than just present ‘big numbers’ in an engaging way?

It’s hard to believe that the seminal book on the subject, ‘Information is beautiful’ by David McCandless, was first published 16 years ago. In his book, David introduced the world to the reality that a good infographic doesn’t start with ‘graphics’ – it starts with ‘information’… the clue is in the name.

Our Creative Director, Tony Beresford, says: “David is often mistaken for a graphic designer because of this book, but it surprises a lot of people to learn that he is a journalist who sources his data first before enlisting graphic designers to help him visualise these findings.

“It’s become an industry trend to direct the phrase “it would be nice if we had an infographic” towards graphic designers, and expect them to make something beautiful out of simplistic data, such as percentages or ‘numbers of pounds spent’. This can be a hard task for the designer, and can lead to disappointing results if the source information is not, in itself, beautiful.”

Information visualisation is a subject that our Senior Designer, Andrew Kelly, is passionate about – well, that and all things sci-fi, fantasy and horror – not to mention his love for a good monster movie.

When he came across some compelling, well-researched, but essentially boring-looking, data that addressed the thorny issue of exactly how much time Godzilla spent on screen in the (fairly) recent 2014 American take on the Japanese monster legend – yes, people really do post that stuff – he knew that as a graphic designer he could do something far more engaging that displayed the information in a way that made people sit up and look.

Andrew says: “When the latest American film came out, there were a lot of complaints (mainly on social media) from fans about the amount of time Godzilla was actually seen on screen, as well as how long it took to see him in full. Many people were not happy as they were expecting to see more. This suggested to me that they hadn’t seen many other Godzilla films, since this is nothing new; so I thought it would be interesting to gather some data and compare it to the rest of the franchise.

“Finding the various bits of information wasn’t too hard, given that you can find anything on the Internet these days – but it was pretty dry stuff. There were all sorts of ways of looking at it, too: How did the length of an appearance relate to the overall running time? When does a teaser – like a foot or beady eye – pop up, compared to a full-on reveal? Are there any trends from different time periods? But nobody had put the data together in one place. The only images I could find were two rather basic charts crafted by message board users:

“So, being an infographic fan, I sensed the makings of an attractive graphic– with enough data to create a kind of beauty of form in and of itself. I envisaged it in a circular fan shape – because it a) reflects Japanese aesthetics and b) looks pretty cool), so I had to plot all the information out in a flat timeline and then format it around an axis.

“The rest was simply a case of designing the sci-fi-inspired style, choosing a colour palette (I decided less is more), choosing the typography and – last but not least – adding the illustration. The one big lesson I can take away from this exercise is: get your data in place and planned out FIRST!”

The finished infographic in all its glory (click to see it in more detail)…

As a bi-product of this work, Andrew recognised that there would be a core group of Godzilla fans who would love to see this information presented as a T-shirt, making them the envy of all Comic-Con attendees. You can get yours here

The book, Information is Beautiful, by David McCandless is widely available.