Data visualization, infographic or illustration?

Check out this interactive graphic on the rise of Google recently produced by the folks over at OnlinePhD.org. It’s an innovative example of how developers can use a responsive, single-page interface to convey a broad range of chronological information that would otherwise be crammed into a timeline. The interactivity of the graphic compels the user to click through to see what happens next, and provides a more engaging narrative than a simple linear flow would.

Based upon our various understandings of the terms data visualization, infographic and illustration, which category would this graphic fall into? I’d be most inclined to say it’s an infographic rather than an illustration, given that its primary goal is to convey factual information (the chronological rise of Google) rather than just to provide an illustration, which it also does quite nicely. But I wouldn’t call it a data visualization, because it’s not immediately apparent from first glance what the graphic is trying to illustrate, and the story isn’t data-driven. It has a more conventional narrative.

What do you think?

  • SEM

    This is a really novel visualization, and while it does have a somewhat whimsical character, even the illustrated backgrounds actual help reinforce the story (the campus, the dorm room, the chef). I think some positive tweaks, though, would have been to have the scale at left actually serve as a timeline, rather than just moving with the graphic. Likewise, it would have been great to have a visual element (say a pie or bar chart) for the employee and web user numbers that showed them in each year as a fraction of what they are today. That would help demonstrated their scale more clearly, by putting them in a current context. Nice find!

    • Carl V. Lewis

      Thanks for the feedback. Agreed about the need for at least a little more scale to show how quickly things evolved. Guess that might’ve been hard to do without compromising the minimalist aesthetic, though.