Infographics StatSilkInfographics are often confused with data visualizations. Differences are not so apparent to a casual observer, and there is a lot of misinformation out there. It is commonly thought that these two are completely different - but they are not. Both are visual representations of data.

An important difference is that a data visualization is just one (i.e. a map, graph, chart or diagram), while an infographic often contains multiple data visualizations. A second key difference is that infographics contain additional elements like narrative and graphics. Besides that, more work tends to go into the design of infographics, to make them more impactful and aesthetically pleasing.

The following table provides an overview of the key differences between infographics and data visualizations. 



Data visualizations

Complexity Generally quite simple, targeting a layman audience Vary greatly in complexity, from simple bar charts to highly complex scientific visualizations 
Includes narrative or storytelling Usually No (this is external to the visualization)
Design  and aesthetics Often a lot of work goes into the design and making it aesthetically pleasing These are for the most part automatically generated using Excel, StatPlanet, or other software; if published or used in presentations, more attention is paid to the design.
Includes meta data, e.g. units, source, definitions Sometimes Generally considered to be external to the data visualization (and often excluded)
Includes graphics, clipart Generally yes, to add visual appeal and provide more "oomph" Sometimes included, but generally frowned upon by data visualization specialists as "chartjunk"
Interactive Rarely, infographics are normally static images. What may be considered as an interactive infographic is more typically referred to as "interactive data stories", which are essentially interactive data visualizations plus narrative Increasingly so in web-based data visualizations - this is the future of datavis
Time taken to complete Generally quite time consuming Typically very little time; even interactive data visualizations can be automatically produced


Hopefully this provides some clarity as to the differences between infographics and data visualizations - and shows that in many cases differences are quite subtle!