A picture is worth a thousand words. But when that picture is itself made of words, your mileage may vary. Take the case of type-based infographics. Bad use of type clutters an image; it acts as decoration – yet becomes a roadblock to information transfer. However, good use of type can add an extra layer of data to a graphic. Text and type within an infographic can be used to place high-density packets of information within a larger context. Here are a few standouts.
Unsurprisingly, one of the best uses of type in graphics is to convey information about type itself. The Evolution of Typography presents letter forms within a Venn diagram, and uses type to illustrate the changing tides of font style.
Utilizing a different trope of scientific-diagram-turned-font-infovis, the Periodic Table attempts to organize fonts by relationship and complexity.
This massive flowchart of fonts is arguably the most useful typeface infographic and definitely the most sly. Here, type is necessary both to illustrate fonts and to provide the unnaturally high laughs-per-inch ratio.
If typeface tutorials borrow from science diagrams, certainly science can borrow back. This infographic uses type to illustrate major trends in scientific papers, their authors and their publication.
The abstract landscape of human inquiry also finds form through type. Making use of a two-dimensional field, this diagram uses text to show relationships between different fields of science.
6. Type Maps
Type also enhances maps of physical geography. By replacing the street lines of a map with a string of letters, a map’s focus is shifted off of its birds-eye shape and onto the names of places. Since we often think of a city in terms of its street names and neighborhoods, these typographic maps are ingeniously intuitive. It doesn’t hurt at all that these maps are aesthetically stunning, as well.
Taking a different approach, this map uses text to convey regional cultural information about Italy; the map is composed of a geographically relevant word collage.
This graphic uses text as a unit to help describe scale. One caveat: the information density of this graphic could have been improved by ditching the legend and simply writing the debtor’s name to scale within the graphic.
Type can also be used to compactly add value to visualizations of large quantities of data. In this visualization of color survey data, the type illustrates an essential relationship between a color and its name, as chosen by survey respondents.
Harking back to Minard’s famous historical infographic of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, this elegant modern-vintage history infographic use type effectively to increase the information density of the graphic. The image encapsulates the narrative of an entire history book.
Taken together, these stunning visuals prove that if a picture is worth a thousand words, a picture combined with thoughtful type is worth a million.