The secrets of infographic storytelling

Poppyfield - Valentino D'Efilippo

Valentina D’Efilippo opened the conference in London, last Saturday. While working on her book ‘The infographic history of the world’ she learned a lot about infographic storytellings. Lessons she’s willing to share: “Data, design and storytelling meet eachother in infographic storytelling.”

Her presentation begins with a visualization she made about the movie The Shining. In this example you see a big circle filled with all colors used in the movie. (The inner of the circle is the start of the movie.) “Color communicates”, Valentina explains. “The two colors that most stand out represents key moments in the movie.” Both in the yellowish green and the red scenes main character Jack Torrence meets ghosts.

The Shining - Valentina D'Efilippo

Function & Beauty

Infographic storytelling is a narrative language, that proposes answers and generates new questions. To do so a good visualization needs to be both functional and beautiful. “Visualizations should be functional insightful and beautifully delightful”, Valentina says, “these can’t be separated. A good infographic needs to be both while staying true to the data.” D’Efillipo believes it’s the only way to connect with the audience.


“While working on the book I shifted from an author-driven to a reader-driven approach. The book has the intention to be informative, but it needs to be entertaining as well!” She smiles: “If not, nobody would buy the book!” Using this approach information design becomes more than just the representation of a number. “It’s much more about finding the right visual to tell the story.”


Valentina calls the gun shown in the infographic below neither decoration or illustration. “You need to engage with your audience – this helps the audience to connect faster.” Which makes it an evident part of the infographic. “After all”, she says, “you do want to get seen and read.” Goodbye Edward Tufte and the ink-ratio police.

Infographic History of the World - Valentina D'Efilippo


Regardless of how complex the data was, the visualizations needed to fit within the limits of the book. “I had to decide what to show and what to leave out”, Valentina remembers. By making these selections, the creators point of view becomes part of the infographics. “There will always be some kind of subjectivity in our work.”


But some datasets demanded more than a static infographic. “There were so many stories in the data. That’s why we brought some of these datasets to live in an interactive form.” In the interactive Poppyfield about the Great War users can explore the data themselves. “You can filter flowers, choose different landscapes, or pick a different focus.”

Poppyfield - Valentina D'Efilippo