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Showcase Of Amazing Vintage Infographics

The world is perpetually complex. Therefore we are always looking for ways in which information and communication can be simplified. Before humanity came up with social media and mobile telecommunications there was another major breakthrough in communicating information in the simplest manner possible: infographics. Rather than be created by some university dropout and disrupt global communication overnight, this technology has been evolving since time immemorial.

Infographics are visual presentations of technical, detailed and statistical information. The best examples are maps. Imagine if maps had to be written out in words rather than created as pictures. Well, now you know the benefit and importance of infographics.

Today we encounter infographics several times a day; from watching the weather forecast, checking the train route maps, when we look at how the stock market is performing. But what were infographics used for in the past?

Some infographics were literally out of this world. The Pioneer Plaque was designed in 1972 and sent on a space shuttle as a means to communicate the existence of human beings to any potential cognitive extraterrestrial life in outer space.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Ancient infographics

Infographics have been in use in some shape or form long before writing. Paintings from the cave-man era can be described as infographics. Some elegant examples of ancient infographics still found on the web are the scientific depictions of Leonardo da Vinci. Here you can see his Study of a Womb from 1489:

Source: Wikipaintings. This artwork is in the public domain.

Ground breaking infographics

Some vintage infographics had ground-breaking consequences. The English nurse Florence Nightingale effectively brought about reforms to military hospitals with her Diagram of the Causes of Mortality from 1858, seen below:

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Information graphic pioneer, Charles Joseph Minard, developed some incredible works around the early 19th century. His most notable infograph (below) outlines the decreasing size of the Grande Armée during it’s march of Moscow.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This popular other piece from Minard, displayed below, outlines how cattle was sent from all over France for consumption in Paris using pie charts on a map.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

One infographic which has been cited by scholars as being of great importance to recent American cultural history is Reebee Garofalo’s Genealogy of Pop/Rock Music.

Sourced from Worldfromdesktop.

This covered pop/rock music from 1955 to 1978 and cited over 700 artists and 30 different musical styles, chronicling the evolution of pop/rock music and mentioning its top selling artists- a must have for people interested in the history of pop culture.

Early 20th century infographs

The interesting thing about infographs from this period is their aesthetic and presentational similarity to the infographs we have today. Another compelling aspect about this era of infographics is the fact that the technological advancements and access to digital means that we have today weren’t an option then.

Source: Typofi

The importance of infographics

Infographics will continue to play an important role in communication. It is important we are aware of landmark historical infographs so we can not only preserve the information contained in them but see how we can improve our communication of information in a complex world today and tomorrow.

Written By

Ben Randall writes for Print Express; one of London's most reputable printing services that specialize in business cards, postcards, letterheads, brochures and other types of print branding.



  1. Michael Davis

    July 21, 2012 at 5:27 am

    That’s cool man! superliked!

  2. Chew

    August 17, 2012 at 1:06 am

    Having visited a Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition recently I can concur that I was fasciated by the visuals on display. It’s great to see his work included in this story about infographics.

  3. Henry

    September 9, 2012 at 2:10 am

    Great compilation, inspiring.

  4. Fran

    January 9, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    like the way you describe it with a map. I did not even think about it being used for stocks. I never thought about it before but we use it alot all the time. reading directions instead of a map most people would have problems with that. No gps more people would get lost every day.

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