Infographics: Powerful Partnership of Art and Science

United States Geological Survey, "Available Water".
United States Geological Survey, “Available Water”.

For the second year, ABC World Citizens board member Inger Gregory facilitated a workshop at the annual October conference of the New Hampshire Art Educators Association (NHAEA). Her topic, “Infographics: Powerful Partnership of Art and Science”, examined how art is making an increasing avalanche of information more accessible in our fast-paced world.

The use of infographics, which include diagrams, charts, maps, and other symbolic imagery, is on the rise as an explosion of data in a shrinking global community poses the challenge of how to communicate vital information to populations already overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of information, and the speed with which it arrives. Visual displays of information can quickly change the way viewers see the world, a key to developing sustainable changes in behavior for the common good.

A variety of examples demonstrated for workshop participants how infographics can rapidly reach large numbers of viewers and move populations from one point of understanding to a more comprehensive view based on the most current information. As catalysts in the transformation of human understanding, they are often more powerful and immediate in their influence than the spoken or written word. Science has uncovered why, as studies reveal that the resolution capacity of human eye/brain functioning is quite immense, thus when infographics help viewers envision an image’s informational content, it increases their ability to understand it fully, and quickly.

The symbiosis of art and science, truth and beauty, in infographics helps art enhance science’s ability to communicate complex information, while science and technology continually provide art with more effective tools for “picturing” information. One compelling example Inger shared was produced by the U.S. Geological Society to illustrate the availability of water worldwide, both potable and salt. The quantities appear as a blue marble, and a smaller pea-sized one next to the soccer-ball-sized image of the Earth. As the image imparts scientifically complex facts with instant effect, it often takes viewers’ breath away in its impact.

Participants discussed how, as infographics turn art and science into collaborators, they create the means to convey information far greater than the sum of its parts. Workshop feedback expressed appreciation for this view of how art and art education continue to contribute to the development of human knowledge and progress.

A visual artist who has taught in New-England schools for more than 25 years, Inger now combines her artistic work with a focus on technology. For more information about hosting this workshop in the New England area, contact Artists Building Capacity as World Citizens.