The infographic history of the world: Book review

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I was given this amazing book as another gift and thought it was time to pick it up and give it a good look through. As I am such a big fan of infographics I was looking forward to seeing how good the visuals were, what they had to offer and how interesting the information is. Also there was a little niggling voice in the back of my head as soon as I saw this book and that part of me couldn’t help but think ‘I wonder how this book compares to information is beautiful’?

I’ll start by looking at what we all judge at first and that is the cover of ‘The infographic history of the world’. This cover takes on a very retro feel, with it’s use of white space and the use of a vector element of the world surrounded by pastel coloured tracks. This style very much reminds me of the graphics developed for mega events like the World cup and the Olympics back in the 1980’s. This doesn’t mean that I think the cover looks dated, not at all, but almost as though it has taken inspiration from a time when data and statistics were truly seen as cutting edge and technically advanced thinking. This simplistic but striking cover would definitely catch the eye of any designer, while drawing in anyone for a love of infographics with its straight forward title.

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So whats going on inside this infographic wonder? Well ‘The infographic history of the world’ believes “you can judge a lot about this book by its cover” so they made an infographic about the content of the book which just so happens to have an uncanny resemblance to the book cover.

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The book is separated into four sections, starting with ‘In the Beginning’ which almost resembles a Victorian illustrated text book. ‘In the beginning’ is all about the beginning of the solar system and evolution, this isn’t the most inspiring part of the book from a creative point of view, at this point the book is gently introducing you into infographics.

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Then we move on to the next section ‘Getting Civilised’ which keeps a similar style as the first section but moves into the use of color within it’s illustrations. This part of the book looks at information about what makes man and how we developed as civilised beings, with the development of cultural elements like art, language and music. As you can see some inspiration has been taken by Leonardo Da Vici’s Vitruvian man, one of the more detailed infographics of this section.

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The third section is ‘Nation Building’ in this section which is all about the age of empires and the importance they had within history, their military might, scale of rule, exploration and war. The infographics in this section are more developed and far more interesting to look through due to their complexity, also the strength of information is clear and creatively detailed. This is the part of the book where I believe it becomes inspiring as an infographic enthusiast, not to mention it is historically quite interesting. The information is not only more detailed but the style of infographics is more creatively aesthetic, this is the reason why I would say this is my favourite part of the book. You can see by this point of the book the thought that has gone into this book, as it slowly develops one section at a time. Exploring the progression of the infographics, fine detail and strength of information is interesting as you are experiencing the book evolving, much like the worlds history.

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The final section ‘The Modern World’ is vastly different visually to the rest of the book, but far more familiar to the infographics we see in our everyday lives, such as the ones we see in newspapers and business literature. The attractive part of this section is that the information is relevant to modern day so you get that common interest in the information, where the previous sections felt that it had to be your area of interest to immerse yourself into the infographics. The information therefore is more varied which gives more scope for creative infographics to work there magic. I did laugh to my self when I came across an Olympic themed page, especially when my first thoughts of the cover were of a retro look used for events like the Olympics back in the 1980’s.

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Something that really interested me about this book is how all of the sections each have their own identity. The style of the artwork noticeably changes from section to section and the tone of each section differs, the start of the book gives a more serious and traditional feel, where towards the end it becomes more fun and light hearted. I think this type of detail truly improves the experience of the book, taking you through a journey through the ages. The beauty of each sections identity is the intro page which showcases a wonderfully creative illustration that sets the tone to each sections journey. I believe the next generation of infographic books can learn a thing or two about how infographics can be used to take you on a journey and not just lay down some facts and vectors in a cold and unimaginative way.

So how does ‘The infographic history of the world’ compare to ‘Information is Beautiful’? Well in my eyes very different, which I think is to be expected from the different formats each book has to offer. ‘Information is Beautiful’ is very inspiring but gives you infographics in random subjects throughout the book, where ‘The infographic history of the world’ sticks with a theme and groups the relevant infographics into sections.

The last section of ‘The infographic history of the world’ has a very similar style of infographics to ‘Information is Beautiful’ as the last section looks at the modern world. This is where ‘The infographic history of the world’ has more to offer with its variation of styles and categories of information.

I still very much like ‘Information is Beautiful’ but in my eyes ‘The infographic history of the world’ opens the door of a stronger and more inspirational way of formatting infographics into a journey. Any creative who enjoys infographics should definitely pick this book up and enjoy the journey.

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