National Geographic Infographics Book Reviews

National Geographic Infographics

Edited by Julius Wiedemann
480 pages, hardbound, $69.99
Published by Taschen
taschen.com

From charting the historical migration of humans to showing how planes track hurricanes to illuminating the effects of feeding poultry antibiotics, National Geographic has long journeyed with its readers to explore the human world. And no matter the subject, each presentation of its data has been paired with an infographic. Collected and edited by Julius Wiedemann, National Geographic Infographics presents a compendium of the illustrations and data visualizations that have appeared in National Geographic from the magazine’s beginning in 1888 to the present day.

A discussion with the eminent information designer Nigel Holmes prefaces the collection, which stresses the influence of National Geographic on the discipline of information design. Holmes notes that whereas other publications have abandoned hand-drawn infographics, National Geographic has not. It’s just one of the things that continues to make the magazine’s visualizations truly memorable. 

Each infographic is paired with the date of its publication and a caption, which helps fill any contextual holes in the infographic. Together, these captions make the book more than just an illustration reference; they turn it into a resource for natural historians as well. Such a relationship is inevitable in any collection of National Geographic, which has constantly paired art and science over its run. As Holmes writes, “If the content of newspapers … is referred to as the ‘first draft of history,’ the work in National Geographic could easily be called the ‘final draft of science and exploration.’” If National Geographic can be considered the final draft, then this collection is the footnote of those final drafts, equally useful for artists and natural historians alike. —Michael Coyne

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