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How do you make information visible?

Stellt man Kunstwerke nicht allein der Kunst wegen her, so macht man sich in der Regel Gedanken darum, wie sich für Betrachter am besten Informationen sichtbar machen lassen – Zusammenhänge, Entwicklungen, Absichten … Ein gerade erschienenes Buch zeigt erstmals die lange Geschichte der Informationsgrafik auf. Sie lernen dabei nicht nur, wie Visualisierung funktioniert, sondern auch, dass Menschen sie schon seit vielen Jahrhunderten gezielt eingesetzt haben.

Manche Menschen machen Kunst um der Kunst willen. Das Schlagwort „l’art pour l’art“ entstand bereits Anfang des 19. Jahrhunderts in Frankreich. Derartige Kunst ist im Wortsinne selbstgenügsam; sie verzichtet auf die Wiedergabe sichtbarer Realität, überhaupt weitgehend auf jeglichen Bezug zu ihr. Es reicht ihr – und ihren Produzent/innen –, reine Form zu sein und als solche wahrgenommen zu werden.

Wie machen Sie Informationen sichtbar?
How do you make information visible? Seite 364 / Die Illustration stammt von dem US-Amerikaner Henry Dreyfuss aus dem Jahr 1955; sie zeigt, wie sich produktdesign am Menschen orientieren soll. (Sammlung Michael Stoll, Copyright: © TASCHEN)


Dem gegenüber stehen Kunstwerke und andere absichtsvoll hergestellte Ergebnisse gestalterischen Schaffens, die mit der Absicht produziert werden, etwas auszusagen, das über sie selbst hinausreicht. Das kann die bloße Wiedergabe von etwas sein, das der Betrachter nicht (oder so nicht) kennt und damit etwas über das Aussehen erfährt. Es kann aber auch – schwieriger, da im strengen Sinne nicht von einem statischen Medium wie Grafik oder Malerei abgedeckt – der Versuch sein, Zusammenhänge und Prozesse nachvollziehbar wiederzugeben.

Oder es mag auch darin münden, Absichten zu vermitteln. So ist es die Aufgabe von Werbebildern, Betrachter dazu zu bringen, die dargestellten Objekte oder Dienstleistungen zu erwerben, während es etwa die Zielsetzung politischer Propaganda ist, Menschen davon zu überzeugen, dass die dahinter stehende Gruppe Unterstützung verdient. Gebrauchsanweisungen sollen dabei helfen, Bücherregale und Küchenmöbel effektiv zusammenzuschrauben.

In all these types of images it is therefore a matter of designing them so that communication intention appears in a visible form and are supplied in this visual way viewer with information that will help them to understand what is represented better and then in the desired way to act. (When I look at a subway route map and understand, so I will enter in the right place on the right train and by the shortest possible route to the desired destination the train leave).

Wie machen Sie Informationen sichtbar?
How do you make information visible? Page 236 / This is the first card, can be seen on the proportional and segmented pie charts. It was in 1858 designed by Charles Joseph Minard, showing the meats offered at the Paris meat market to the amount and origin. (© Courtesy Ecole nationale des ponts et chaussées)

Since when people make information visible?

This question is difficult to answer, but in some ways, this process begins with prehistoric cave drawings. Anyway, enough of what we call today the term Infographic, much further back than there is this term.

The book "The History of information graphics" just appeared, written by Sandra Rendgen and edited by Julius Wiedemann is fortunately not only with the beginning of the 20th century (or even with the era, are designed mainly with digital tools for the graphics) but already with the middle ages. (Previous examples such as the gigantic antique map of Rome (forma Urbis)) at least be mentioned in the introductory chapter. The book provides hundreds of sample images before and explained in detail her.

Wie machen Sie Informationen sichtbar?
How do you make information visible? Page 124 / The woodcut from the year 1491 to help the viewers to remember the most important teachings of the Church. The phalanges of the left hand show the twelve disciples of Jesus, and his own mother, each represents a particular dogma (exceptionally with "g" is written). The right hand is represented by saints, for the active proclamation of God's Word. / Stephan Fridolin (Author), Michael Wolgemut, Wilhelm Pleydenwurff (artist, from the book: Schatzbehalter the true riches of salvation, Nuremberg 1491. Hand-colored copy of the Württemberg State Library Stuttgart (© Klassik Stiftung Weimar / Duchess Anna Amalia Library).

How information can be made visible?

Change in the book historical chapter with those for the design of information graphics from: Thus, besides the chapter on the Middle Ages, those for early modern period, the 19th and 20th centuries. In between Scattered extensively illustrated essays on the visual transfer of knowledge "line, color, surface, signs," "data in maps see", "gems from the history of data visualization" and "humans and machines understand."

Although this nearly 500 pages are not just a textbook that takes you by the hand and shows you how you can put a certain idea as effectively as possible in an image; the focus is on the demonstration of historical development, such as graphic designers have solved such tasks over the centuries.

But there is nothing, even as an instruction manual to deal with this book and read it with policy and to consider how the featured presentation methods can be implemented for your own projects.

After all, you are not the first to face such problems - so why not learn from the predecessors and build on their ideas and achievements? For not only in the sciences, the set of Isaac Newton, the author of the cited in the introductory text is: "If I have seen further, it is because I stood on the shoulders of giants."

As a small critical comment: As usual with issues of pockets publishing this book is lovingly designed and professional, the original images are excellent reproduced. The font size of the captions however - not of the texts that explain the images - is a bit too small and difficult to read; and the absence of a common front matter, for a vertically aligned text with the title in a bright light green with little contrast to paper white, sits as an introduction to the book is not just the basic idea of ​​the work to that design should make it to the viewers as light as possible to capture content.

Sandra Rendgen: History of Information Graphics, Taschen, Cologne, 2019. Hardcover, large format 24 x 37 cm, 462 pages, 50 euros.

How do you make information visible? Front Page (© TASCHEN)
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Hans Baumann

Doc Baumann is primarily concerned with installations (and their critics) and with the unmasking of image forgeries, also with digital graphic and pictorial techniques. In the media again and again as "Photoshop Pope" dubbed dedicated since 1984 to the digital imaging and writes since 1988 about it.

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