Making change through infographics

| 15th March 2019
Infographic books explain complex environmental problems with attractive, simple and scientifically-grounded illustrations.


We face a tsunami of information that fills our news feeds everyday, mostly unfiltered. Facts and fake news are all mixed up on our smartphones, tablets and laptops.

Sometimes this fake news can look very convincing, which can make it difficult to recognise. In our fast-paced world my printed infographic books feed the need for sustainable information.

They are based on scientific papers and reviewed by scientists from all over the world, and are guaranteed to be trustworthy while narrowing down the environmental problems to their very core.

Visualising information 

Infographic books are easy to understand, even without any prior knowledge on the topic. Most of all they are not opinionated, but rather neutral tools for gaining more knowledge and a deeper understanding of the complexity of a chosen topic, for example the state of the oceans. 

My new book The Ocean Book explores the diverse problems our seas are facing today: climate change, loss of biodiversity, overfishing, industrialization and pollution. The information builds one page after the other, creating a complex picture of interactions and a broad overview of the current threads the oceans are facing.

Scientific papers are not on the reading list of most people, they are not written in a way the general public can immerse themselves in. They are the outcome of one or two years of hard data based work and every word, every phrase has a very precise meaning. 

The problem with these kind of papers is that only scientists understand them. That's a big issue, because a lot of scientific papers actually want to create change and send a message to the general public, for example on the state of our planet, on the climate breakdown or on the threads to ocean wildlife.

That is where infographics come in handy, they have the power to visualize the essence of a scientific paper. No matter how complex it at first seems, a graphic can be eye-opening and easy to understand for everybody.

Knowledge building

One of the most important principles is that less is more. Finding the balance between aesthetics, interpretation and visualization of the data in critical. The selection of data and the creation of easy-to-read icons is a challenge I face every day. 

Modern computer-generated infographics tend to do the opposite: instead of opening your eyes and making a topic simpler to understand, they visualise complexity in an obvious and aesthetic way,  without leaving you with further understanding or revelation. 

I try to go in a different direction with my infographic book series.  I prioritise the selection of topics that suit the flow of information and knowledge-building over aesthetics. Showing the broader picture, zooming in, connecting the dots that lead slowly page after page to a complex picture of the problem. 

My books are simple in every way. They feature one colour plus black, distinctive and repetitive icons and a clear and easy to understand language - anyone can further their understanding and learn something new.

In the best case, these books make people curious to learn more, encourage them to do further research and reading on the topic, or to start putting thoughts into action and caring even more for our planet. 

Starting small 

We all know that everybody has the power to make a bigger change in the world. There are many examples of great people throughout history who have stood up for their beliefs and created grassroots movements. Every little action counts and many small actions will eventually lead to a bigger change.

We can all save the world, the oceans, and the climate by starting to change and simplify our lifestyle. Little by little, day by day – there are many possibilities and ways to become more earth friendly.

Incorporating new habits into daily life can be easy, so long as we don’t lose sight of the overwhelming size of the global problems. Starting small and keeping going, we will inspire others to do the same. 

A really small start can just be having a closer look at an infographic. You never know what that might trigger in your brain and what actions and change you might bring to the world.

This Author

Esther Gonstalla is a German freelance infographic designer and writer of three infographic books: The Atomic Book, The Climate Book and most recently The Ocean Book (Green Books, Cambridge). 

Image: Greg McFall, Wikimedia


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