Teaching Infographics

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We’ll be in New York on March 24-25 with our well received workshop on principles of infographics and data visualization. How is it different, and what do our participants learn?

Infographics and data visualization have experienced significant change since we started 5W Infographics back in 2001. And certainly since we published our very first infographics, which takes us all the way to the late 80s! If you were thinking of infographics  and dataviz as a new field, you may want to think again.

Some of these changes are profound, in good and bad ways, and they are a big part of the reason why at 5W Academy (our educational branch) we think infographics and dataviz education are important precisely now.

Individuals and corporations have now access to massive public and private data sets, and new software applications allow us to visualize them. But that’s not the same as having the ability to a find relevant story behind the data, and the skill to visualize and design it efficiently.

We also see countless of unfortunate examples of infographics that are little more than empty decorative designs around a few numbers, the product of marketing departments with the only purpose of making content viral. It’s just pretty clickbait that gives a bad name to infographics. These have become so pervasive that sadly, many people think of that type of content first when they think of “infographics”, a trendy word now. But in nearly all cases they offer absolutely nothing in terms of revealing insightful patterns and trends behind numerical or special information.

Data visualization is not new. It’s actually been around us for hundred of years, and many of the principles behind it stand the pass of time. It’s good to look back at some of them.

At 5W we started working with infographics in the field of journalism, where focus and accuracy are paramount. During long years as staff members for newspapers like El Mundo (one of the European infographics pioneers) and The New York Times, or magazines such as Fortune and National Geographic, we were trained to seek first and foremost data sets and information that was both accurate and relevant to our readers. To find focus and to visualize that content in a visual way through charts, maps, and illustrated infographics that would offer new visual insights for our readers. With stiff competition for space in the news pages, you need to prove you can inform (not decorate) in a way neither the best writers or photographers can with the tools of their craft alone.

Today it often seems like the word “infographics” has been hijacked by marketers with inadequate understanding of data visualization principles and sometimes dubious or biased agendas; and often the term “data visualization” or dataviz has been appropriated by software wizards and digital designers more fascinated by the fact they can visualize large amounts of data than by how they can extract and explain a revealing story by visualizing the core message behind it. The result is cool but empty data art that tries to pass as information or incomprehensible “data dumps” that look fascinating but lacks proper editing and design basics and just confuse anyone with an honest intent of making sense of it.

The purpose of our workshop is to explain the principles that enable us to create powerful visual stories that illuminate concepts for readers in engaging ways. And to practice them hands-on. We haven’t found a workshop that looks at all the different tools of infographics and dataviz at the same time: the Do’s and Dont’s of plotting numbers and statistics with charts; geographic and thematic cartography; illustrations and pictograms; design, hierarchy and color; and exploring creativity with those tools.

In our next post we’ll look in detail at the content and schedule of the two-day workshop.

New workshops in NYC and Singapore


5W Academy is heading to NYC for our next Infographics and Data visualization workshop in the US. It will be on March 24-25.

We received great feedback from our Washington, D.C. workshop back in October. A combination of local and out-of-state participants from government agencies, design studios, NGOs and other organizations got together for two days.

This two-day workshop is a comprehensive introduction to the creation of infographics and data visualization. With a mix of theory and practice, the workshop is aimed at professionals and students interested in developing the skills to produce engaging, insightful visual storytelling with their content.

We will learn how to gather and prepare data, the Do’s and Dont’s of working with numerical information and charts, and the principles of visual hierarchy, color, typography, illustration, and narrative to create impactful infographics.

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Attendees will sketch out infographics, storyboard motion graphics and create / publish their interactive data visualizations and web maps with the help of Tableau Public. The class will discuss award-winning projects and offer an overview of tools and strategies for creating infographics and data visualization.

At the same time, we are keeping busy in Asia. We’ll be back in Singapore on February 18-19 for “The Power of Infographics 4”, the fourth edition of a workshop that has proven really popular. The workshop is organized by Methodology and partnership with German leading art/design book publisher Gestalten.

Also in Singapore, we were invited to do back-to-back workshops on March 8-9, March 10-11 and possibly also March 14-15. The organizer is Maitre Allianz, a leading training services company.

First 5W Academy workshop in Washington, D.C.

“Really good overall. A strong alternative to Tufte and Few.”

Earlier this week we hosted the first 5W Academy event in Washington, D.C. The two-day workshop’s aim was to serve as an introduction to the creation of infographics and data visualization, with a combination of theory and practice.

The brand-new Marriott Marquis Washington hotel was a terrific setting for the event (thank you to all involved for the great quality of service and responsiveness).


We had a great turnout with a combination of local and out-of-state participants from government agencies, design studios, NGOs and other organizations interested in producing visual storytelling. With such a broad topic, it can be challenging finding a path and focus that works for the whole group in a public workshop, but the feedback was really positive.

“It was a great course and made what for me was a moderately interesting topic into a fascinating one”.



The participants practiced their hand at researching, conceptualizing and sketching out infographics with multiple components, taking decisions on narrative focus, hierarchy and design balance. For future workshops, quite a few people pointed out they would welcome a third day in the workshop to have more time with hands-on exercises and Tableau software practice. It’s something we are seriously considering for future events.




We are looking at the possibility of having the workshop in NYC very soon and, if the interest keeps rising, you may have a 5W Academy event near you in the near future! Our goal is to cover not only infographics and data visualization but all topics relevant to information design and visual storytelling.

The Power of Infographics 3 workshop in Singapore


Our Power of Infographics two-day workshop in Singapore proved so popular in January and May that we are coming back for the third time on September 29 and 30. The event is hosted by our friends at Methodology in partnership with Gestalten, the German publishers and specialists in visual culture. 5W’s co-founder Juan Velasco (ex Graphics Art Director at The New York Times and ex-Art Director of National Geographic magazine) will offer a comprehensive review of information graphics and data visualization, both in print and online. The hands-on experience will involve gathering and preparing data, working with statistics in Excel, sketching, storyboarding… By the end of the workshop the attendants will have a completely sketched-out illustrated infographic with multiple components and a functioning online data visualization including interactive charts and maps. We’ll use the free Tableau Public for our interactive exercises.The theory and practice of information graphics will be covered in multiple lectures. We’ll discuss step-by-step examples of award-winning infographics and the latest trends. We’ll learn which charts are best to use for different types of data; what type of maps are useful to give insight into our data sets or to locate stories, and how they are created; the tools and processes for successful motion graphics… We will also experiment with hierarchy, color, typography, illustration, and narrative to create effective infographics that make an impact. If the previous workshops are any indication, seat will go fast! Reserve yours now by emailing admin@methodology.sg


Data Visualization with D3.js online course


Here is an opportunity you do not want to miss: Alberto Cairo and Scott Murray are co-teaching an online course called Data Visualization and Infographics with D3.js. Alberto, professor of Information Graphics and Visualization at the University of Miami, will be teaching the conceptual part or the course, and Scott, author of Interactive Data Visualization for the Web, will introduce and explain the powerful JavaScript library D3.js.

D3.js is one of the best tools to know if you are serious about interactive data visualization online (The New York Times has done amazing things with it). It is a JavaScript library designed specifically to display and control data visualization on web browsers. The learning curve can be a bit steep if you are completely new to web programming, but it is certainly worth the effort.