National Geographic is an inherently visual publication. It was one of the earliest entities to use photography to tell stories and make an impact. The publication’s legacy of images reminds us that despite the great strides made in the field of information design, some of the most powerful modes of communicating occur organically and when captured in photographs, communicate with unmatched power and clarity.
This photo, “Green-eyed Afghan Girl,” is probably one of the most iconic images of all time. This single image has captured the curiosity of thousands of readers, compelling them to ask, “what is her story?” Though she lives in the remote Afghan desert, a member of a culture far removed from that of the Western world, readers identify with this girl’s humanity, conveyed through her powerful stare.
But National Geographic Magazine does not only pique the curiosity of readers. This publication has also become a guide-on for the use of information design to distill complex data into a succinct visual display. For example, National Geographic took the data of a set of countries’ health care expenditures and graphed them to correlate with the average life expectancy in this infographic.
Visually depicting this information gives it greater impact as well as greater comprehensibility.
In other instances, artist renderings are used to depict what would otherwise be left to the imagination of readers, such as prehistoric subjects:
Or objects invisible to the unaided, human eye:
So what does this all mean? National Geographic affords its readers the opportunity to discover new topics and enrich their understanding of the world around them, no matter how inaccessible a topic may seem.