Thursday, December 2, 2010

Fortune's Glorious Infographic Past

At long last, the article I wrote for Print based on my lecture about the amazing infographics Fortune published during the first half (1930-1970) of its 80-year existence.

A number of years ago, I was invited to give a presentation at Malofiej, the Society of News Design's worldwide infographics conference held each year in Pamplona, Spain. At the time, I was Fortune’s graphics editor and had always wanted an excuse to subject myself to going through every issue of the magazine and document its use of charts, diagrams, maps, etc. Talk about falling down the rabbit hole! Of the few hundred images I collected, some 80 went into the presentation, and 18 of those appear in this article.

I still like to imagine that I will do the book one of these days, but size is a real issue. Unlike the early spectacular Fortune covers that are legible even when reproduced as thumbnails (there weren’t even cover-lines in those days), the infographics are often readable only at the original print size. Each page was 11" by 14" in the early days, and many graphics ran as full spreads and with tiny labels. Sumptuous and gorgeous, but not very iPhone-friendly, or even iPad-friendly for that matter. I just can’t see an 8" by 10" format doing justice to the ‘Financial Irrigation of the United States’ (second spread, below), and I’m not sure I can handle being laughed out of the office of any publisher still in business. The research (most of it) is done ...

The body text should be readable when you click on the pages to enlarge.

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