The best inspirational books from the world of infographics

Who am I?

I am a writer and editor with a background in art history, based in Berlin. My work has always been shaped by two complementary needs. First, I always felt a thirst for understanding and knowledge. Second, I was always on the hunt for brilliant design and beautiful visuals. Infographics were thus a natural terrain for me. Since 2012, I have published four comprehensive books in the field. This includes both surveys of contemporary work as well as studies in the history of the field.

I wrote...

History of Information Graphics

By Sandra Rendgen,

Book cover of History of Information Graphics

What is my book about?

This XL-sized compendium explores the history of data graphics from the Middle Ages right through to the digital era. Curated by Sandra Rendgen, some 400 milestones span astronomy, cartography, zoology, technology, and beyond. Across medieval manuscripts and parchment rolls, elaborate maps, splendid popular atlases, and early computer-based information design, we systematically break down each work’s historical context, including such highlights as Martin Waldseemüller’s famous world map, the meticulous nature studies of Ernst Haeckel, and many unknown treasures.

The books I picked & why

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National Geographic Infographics

By Julius Wiedemann,

Book cover of National Geographic Infographics

Why this book?

In my work, I try to combine my love for brilliant visuals and my fascination for complex scientific topics. You can easily guess why the National Geographic Magazine has always been one of my favourites. Its first issue appeared in 1888, and from an early stage, NatGeo’s editors have made extensive use of excellent infographics and photography alongside their stories. For this book, National Geographic has teamed up with Taschen to assemble a marvellous collection of the best infographics ever published in the magazine. Attention: This is highly inspiring and – quite literally – a heavyweight.

Map: Exploring the World

By Phaidon Press, John Hessler,

Book cover of Map: Exploring the World

Why this book?

Maps are the most ancient type of infographic we know, and that comes as no surprise. Spatial navigation is one of the most important evolutionary skills that both animals and humans have developed. Recording this knowledge in maps requires both a thorough scientific understanding and considerable artistic skills. This beautiful coffee table book is a mind-blowing and timeless trip through the field of cartography. It charts the development from pre-historic maps carved in stone all the way to recent brain scans from the Human Connectome Project. Give me this book and I’ll be lost browsing through its visual treasures for several days.

Dear Data

By Giorgia Lupi, Stefanie Posavec,

Book cover of Dear Data

Why this book?

Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec, both brilliant designers, share a passion for visualizing data. Living in New York and London, respectively, they became “pen pals” when they met in 2014: Each week over a year, they would send each other postcards with hand-drawn infographics. Each postcard charts one specific aspect of their daily lives – such as how much time they spent with other people or how often they complained. They created over 100 postcards in total, which are kept today in the design collection of MoMA. The project was wildly popular and inspired many people to create their own infographics. With its personal angle and beautiful drawings, it provides a completely new take on the practice of collecting data.

The Secret Lives of Color

By Kassia St. Clair,

Book cover of The Secret Lives of Color

Why this book?

I fell in love with this book the moment I picked up a copy in a book store. While it is not exactly about infographics, it tackles an aspect that is crucial to creating successful and arresting visualizations: color. This topic has a wide scientific dimension (think perception, think chemistry), but the notion of color is also intertwined with intense aesthetic experiences. Kassia St. Clair combines both with a trove of historical stories about scientists, artists, and other aficionados on the hunt for intricate shades such as Mummy or Chrome Yellow. A highly inspiring read, a beautiful book, and an excellent gift.

W. E. B. Du Bois's Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America

By The W E B Du Bois Center at the Universi,

Book cover of W. E. B. Du Bois's Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America

Why this book?

In the late 1890s, W.E.B. Du Bois was a brilliant young sociologist when he was involved in a project to represent the status of the Afro-American population. This was some 30 years after slavery had been abolished, and his findings were to be exhibited at the World Expo 1900 in Paris. Aside from assembling a wealth of material such as books and photographs, Du Bois turned to statistics and data visualization to provide a broader national lens, and to demonstrate that disadvantage and discrimination still prevailed. Together with a team, he created a highly intriguing series of visualizations that were exhibited as posters in Paris in 1900. This beautiful book publishes the series for the first time and provides historical context.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in infographic, maps, and cartography?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about infographic, maps, and cartography.

Infographic Explore 3 books about infographic
Maps Explore 13 books about maps
Cartography Explore 14 books about cartography

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like William Birchynshaw's Map of Exeter, 1743, Atlas: A World of Maps from the British Library, and Charles Booth's London Poverty Maps: A Landmark Reassessment of Booth's Social Survey if you like this list.