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Picture It!

So what on earth is an infographic?  Most of us are familiar with charts, maps, graphs, pictures and textbooks as a means of conveying information.  The downside is they tend to be segmented, tedious and require more of our attention than we sometimes want to give.  In some instances the complexity of the subject demands that we read the text, look at the pictures, and study the graphs in order to fully understand. The solution is an infographic- a visual representation that integrates all of these things into a single graphic.

The demand for information designers who specialize in infographics is growing as the digital world grows. As part of its ongoing commitment to keeping up with trends in design, Queens now offers Information Design in static, motion and interactive forms as part of the New Media Design program within the College of Arts and Sciences. 

Leading the way is Assistant Professor Mike Wirth, whose work as a new media designer has garnered numerous awards and has been seen in national media including the Washington Post and the Huffington Post.

Information designers use their creativity to convert complex and possibly unfamiliar information into an easily understood visual representation.  Mastery of information theory, as well as top notch design skills is crucial to success in the field.  

"We are constantly learning new things. Scholarly research and data are presented not as a paper, but as a poster, animated movie or interactive website or kiosk.  Threatening subjects are made less threatening through information design," said Professor Wirth.

An infographic can explain anything from a biochemical process such as photosynthesis to the evolution of the American flag. Unlike previous audio-visual aides, they offer global perspective and multiple entrance points for wider audiences. Take a look at any transit map and you'll be looking at an infographic. As Professor Wirth recalls, "I was fascinated by the New York City subway maps. They were one of my early inspirations."

Although pictorial representations of complex concepts have been around for years, information design brings new design and artistry into these works.  "If you look at the drawings in caves, you know something about how Neanderthals lived," said Wirth. Information design conveys current concepts and also preserves our knowledge in a way that textbooks and documents cannot. It's a skill that will serve us and its masters well.

For more information about infographics, see www.youtube.com/mwainfographics.

Professor Wirth's portfolio is www.mikewirthart.com.

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