Infographics & Data visualisation

You will need to bring your camera & audio gear + tripod as we will be doing some audio testing in class. You do not need to do any pre-reading for the Advanced Practice practical  session as the video week is quite a challenging week, leaving you little time for pre-reading. 

  • M: am: 1 – Critique Audio 1 hour
  • M: am: 2 – Seminar Infographics & Data visualisation Inspiration 1.5 hour
  • M: am: 3. Housekeeping – Assign Student Responsibilities – 30 mins
  • M: pm: 3 – Critique Audio 1.5 hours
  • M: pm: 3 – Exercise 1.5 hours
  • T: am: Data + Graphics tools
  • T: pm 4: S
  • T: eve: Theory Seminar

This weeks learning outcomes — Students will:

  • Understand what infographics and data visualizations are, and to identify how news organisations use them in journalism stories, either alone or as elements within mixed media articles.
  • Identify some significant and various forms of infographics and data visualtions. Including static graphs, timelines and animated explaners. 

  • Distinguish which infographics and data visualtions formats are approporate for which kinds of data.
  • Identify some specific tools they can use to produce simple infographic and data visualtions on their own and emebed them into digital platforms.
  • *NOTE, we do not teach Data Journaslim or data driven reporting. Data Journaslim is a huge topic that needs a keen and in depth understanding of math and statistics. Instead we teach how to visualise simple data sets and use them in your multimedia stories.
  • *NOTE, this class is not about teaching you the inticacies of each and every data tool. That’s something students will need to do independently. Rather we guide you to a variety of the ones we think are useful and easy to grasp with some practice. You will need to use the google to find tutorials.


Firstly, you will need to spend some time doing the readings here on the page – it’s clear from assignments who is and who isn’t doing readings.

Assignment: (2 topic choices): Make an infographic / data visualisation about the current Refugee Crisis OR China’s Housing Market. It could be a:

  • Single or series of charts / graphs visualising information or data
  • Animated ‘explainer video’ (1–2 mins)
  • A Timeline or map
  • If your assignment infographic is not an animated graphic, then you must in addition make a very animated graphic (30 secs to 1 min) . We do need you to test and prove that you can animate if needed.
  • Choice 1 — Refugee Crisis – Want to see some examples? Check out The Refugee Crisis through the eyes of Data Visualization or The flow towards Europe
  • Choice 2 — China’s Housing Market
  • Your publication is either the Guardian Data Blog – or a BBC explainer video. You will need to take a close look at your chosen publication and emulate, but be creative — perhaps try to recreate a chart or visualisation you’ve seen elsewhere but with new data and new story. Here’s a good example from the Guardian — see how it uses both text and simple graphics to work togther to make the information easier to digest.
  • View an overview of a BBC explainer video here below
  • Embed your work onto your digital platform. Be sure you attribute your sources in an appropriate way. Deadline Sunday eve. You may or may not add music, if you do it needs to be legal to use, unless you have a band, you might try searching free Creative Commons Licensed tracks. Try Jamendo.

BBC Explainers are short online films that help inform the public about big and often complex subjects — such as astronomy, pregnancy, or DNA — in an interesting and accessible way.

Assignment tips

First off, spend a few hours playing with 3 or 4 of the tools in class. Then think about the story you want to tell. Research, (this should take 3 to 4 hours minimum). Find some reliable data and think about the best way to visualise it. Make sure you choose a suitable form. Spend the second day visualising the data and perfecting things.

Want to see some Chinese examples of data visualisation – look around some of the links here – Data journalism in China

Sometimes graphics supplement or enhance a story, sometimes they can tell an entire story. For your assignment this week — you should think about telling a story with your graphics, in other words, graphics should be the central media – whether animated or static. Sometimes, however, graphics need a little context, so don’t hesitate to include a paragraph or two of text or a voiceover if you see fit. 

Whats the difference between an Infographic and a Data Visualisation?

  • This is not the most important question, but it often crops up – so here’s an answer:
  • Both are visual representations of data.
  • Both translate data – typically numbers into graphics
  • Bot can be static, interactive or animated
  • @AlbertoCairo explains it best in his blog
  • so I’ll leave it to him: (I have cut his quotes for brevity)

“I’m often asked about the differences between data visualizations and infographics… both crafts are based largely on the same design principles. Perhaps, I’d argue that an infographic is a visual display intended to make a point, whereas a data visualization is a tool to interactively explore data.

We could say that an infographic tells the stories that its designer wants to explain, but a data visualization lets people build their own insights based on the evidence provided.

There isn’t a clear boundary between data infographics and data visualizations, though. Many interactive graphics nowadays highlight relevant facts first (“there’s a clear relationship between income and life expectancy; just look at these two counties,”) and then they let you explore the dataset underlying those facts (“here’s all the numbers, just in case you want to make sure that we’re no lying.”) Graphics like those are, simultaneously, infographics and visualizations of data. They have, let’s say, at least two layers: A presentation one, and an exploration one.
The nice scatter plot showcased in this post, published today by The New York Times (see the story,) is an interesting case: According to my own definition, it’s an infographic. It was made to support the authors’ argument. What would it take to transform it into a hybrid, half infographic, half data visualization? All dots should become interactive, to begin with; we would need filters, a search box, zoom buttons, etc.; and a link to download a spreadsheet with all the data. Also, animating the transition between 1990 and today wouldn’t be a bad idea. I can envision a fun Rosling-esque graphic here!

 Infographics & Data Visualisation

What is Data visualisation?