Graphics usually have two reading levels or layers. One faster and other deeper. With the fast one we can give information at first glance, an instant visual impact to express clearly a data, an information. A graphic could be just this 'hit', and many times that is more than enough. But sometimes we must go further. We can do it on two different ways:
1. Offering a second level reading, analysing the graphic, going deeper in the data. We can do it using color codes, sizes, little details...
Many times, we hear on our own newsroom that some graphisc are too complicated. I think that, as Alberto Cairo says on his book Infografía 2.0, tehre are no graphics for silly people who don't want to read and text for the smart ones. Some graphics need to be complex, as there are complex texts. Anyway, we alweays try to place different 'layers of information' on a way that some could take a fast glance and others go deeper in data, analysing the information.
An example of this kind of infographics is this one published on our newspaper, Público, the day Paul Newman died, summarizing his career.
By Alvaro Valiño
There are some datails taht you can see at a glance: he worked a lot with Joanne Woodward (his wife) and Martin Ritt. Was nominated for Oscar several times and won 3 of them... But you can analyse the graphci and go year by year, see which films were done with huis wife, on which years, how he played the same charatcer twice... Little details, but important if you really wnat to know more about him.
2. Using contextual information. Little details give extra data, sometimes more useful than the main one.
This use to happen on big double-spread graphics.
For example, what Wired magazine did with the Dallas Cowboys stadium:
- A great illustration by Bryan Christie.
And little details, very simple. Maybe typical, but useful.
(Thanks to Steve Cavendish for the link)
Or this one I published on Publico about Soyuz and Shuttle.
Big centrla image for a fast comparison, and details by the side (space per person, how do they enter in the atmosphere, accidents... of each one) and at the bottom(every single mission of each one, separated by time and shuttle).
Graphics are information, and as information they must be treated. With layers, reading levels. We can have short informations, direct to the point. We can also have big features, with breakdowns and context. Analysis that need a quiet reading.