Books

A Colorful Compendium of Infographics for Understanding the World Now

Knowledge Is Beautiful
Detail of “World Dashboard” visualization in “Knowledge Is Beautiful” by David McCandless (all images courtesy Harper Design)

From the amount the potential tax revenue from legalizing drugs worldwide to disappearing seed varieties, data journalist David McCandless transforms abstract information into engaging visuals. His book Knowledge Is Beautiful, out this month from Harper Design, has his newest graphics for making sometimes imperceptible connections accessible.

Cover of "Knowledge Is Beautiful" (courtesy Harper Design)
Cover of “Knowledge Is Beautiful” (courtesy Harper Design)

Knowledge Is Beautiful is a followup to his 2000 Information Is Beautiful, and both are spurred by McCandless’s Information Is Beautiful data visualization website. As the London-based author writes in the introduction: “The more you understand information in this way, the more connected and contextualised it becomes, the more it starts to morph and grow into knowledge.” And through the 196 infographics in the book, which take a simple, but thoughtful, approach to areas of science, economy, culture, and the strange, are unexpected snapshots from the deluge of available data.

There is a growing group of people experimenting with data visualization, which is itself sourced in a deep history of visualizing the information of science and other knowledge. One intriguing feature of the book are urls at the bottom of each visualization that take you to the original datasets. They range from rating the best dogs through Best in Show winners, popular pets, and lifetime costs; to “senseless deaths per hour” based on different conflicts from the Bosnian Genocide and the Syrian Civil War to a graph of the top 500 passwords (just in case you are using bond007, abc123, or, god forbid, passw0rd).

Something dynamic of McCandless’s data visualizations is lost in book form — check out his “Snake oil Superfoods?” interactive chart on the scientific evidence of health foods for example. However, they’re on the whole excellent portals into the world we’re living in now. Knowledge Is Beautiful doesn’t seem to be aiming to be either a time capsule or an archival object, but a publication for interfacing with the present data impacting our world.

Knowledge Is Beautiful
“Drug Deal” visualization of potential tax revenue from legalizing drugs worldwide in “Knowledge Is Beautiful” (photograph of the book by the author for Hyperallergic)
Knowledge Is Beautiful
“Disappearing varieties?” visualization of vanishing seed varieties in “Knowledge Is Beautiful” (photograph of the book by the author for Hyperallergic)
Knowledge Is Beautiful
David McCandless, “World Dashboard” in “Knowledge Is Beautiful”
Knowledge Is Beautiful
David McCandless, visualization of different “One in…” chances from “Knowledge Is Beautiful”
Knowledge Is Beautiful
Detail of “One in…” chances from “Knowledge Is Beautiful”
Knowledge Is Beautiful
“Common Mythconceptions I: Most Contagious Falsehoods,” by David McCandless from “Knowledge Is Beautiful”
Knowledge Is Beautiful
Detail of “Common Mythconceptions I: Most Contagious Falsehoods,” by David McCandless from “Knowledge Is Beautiful”
Knowledge Is Beautiful
“Common Mythconceptions II: Most Contagious Falsehoods,” by David McCandless from “Knowledge Is Beautiful”
Detail of "Common Mythconceptions II: Most Contagious Falsehoods," by David McCandless from "Knowledge Is Beautiful"
Detail of “Common Mythconceptions II: Most Contagious Falsehoods,” by David McCandless from “Knowledge Is Beautiful”

Knowledge Is Beautiful by David McCandless is availalbe from Harper Design. 

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