Graphics are for the less educated?

The New Paper (TNP), a tabloid paper, uses a lot more graphics in its stories than most of the other local papers. One reason I can think of is that graphics are seen as tools to present data in a simple manner and TNP’s target audience has traditionally been the blue-collared workers who are less comfortable with text either in quantity or quality. Besides, its focus on foreign soccer league news, means it has to offer more value than what it publishes from foreign news sources, thus presenting exciting moments of the games in graphic form has figured prominently in the paper.

But are graphics only meant for the simplification of data?

Not so, says Alberto Cairo, an infographic designer and author of Infografía 2.0. He argues that just as there are complex texts, some graphics need to be complex too. The book is in Spanish but according to a review by Infographic News, the key is in providing “layers” that allow a reader to get information at a glance but also delve deeper for the details.

This is an un-attributed infographic found in yesterday’s Straits Times about the Singapore Navy’s launch of its largest combat vessels the new stealth frigates, at 114.8m long.

stshipjan172009

Compare this with another infographic done by Juan Cholbi of a Spanish newspaper on the launch of an aircraft carrierportaaviones

To be fair, the ships are different in size and ST probably had space constraints. A graphic like the latter would have easily taken up half a page instead of the quarter page that ST gave. Still, if you get a chance to read the ST report, a lot of it focuses on rhetoric about how new frigates will improve maritime security (duh!). From a reader’s perspective, I think it would be more interesting to learn that this is the Navy’s largest combat frigate!

Juan Cholbi’s piece works as an example of having the main details like a sense of scale for the reader, at the left hand side, where the aircraft carrier’s size is compared to others and also the other details that might simply be more interesting for the military geek.

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