Top positive review
The book that launched a thousand infographics reminds you how good they can be
on 21 February 2014
Apparently there were numerous errors in earlier versions of this book, but this review is for the 2012 edition which would appear to have corrected the omissions and errors of earlier editions.
The most serious fault that I can level at McCandless's "Information is Beautiful" is that is has almost single handedly given rise to the infographic obsession that means that you can hardly go online without encountering some designer's view of information that is all style and little substance. However, returning to McCandless's book shows how, when done with thought and insight, the graphic can add to the reader's understanding of the data. The book is one part modern art, one part geek-porn and several parts graphic design. It's not only interesting, but is indeed as beautiful as the title promises it to be.
When the book was first published, in 2009, many of the designs were seldom used - not most of them will be familiar and that threatens to minimise the importance of the book in the history of infographic design. Rather like HDR photography, a badly thought out infographic is dull and a bit cliche now, but when done properly, they really do get the message over. A picture is said to paint a thousand words, but a well-designed infographic can get over more than that. And this is full of them.
McCandless is good at sourcing the data. One slight concern though is that there is a fair bit that is sourced from Wikipedia - which is seldom the most reliable of sources on anything. With that caveat, this book is a modern design classic. It's beautiful, interesting, clever and thoughtful.