I'd say one of the important functions of information design is to make numbers and facts -- which might otherwise be hard to grasp and contextualize -- extremely easy to understand. Sometimes, it can be as simple as taking some information and contextualizing it against information which is meaningful and familiar to the reader, as done in this post in the atlantic. He took a circle the size of the Texas wildfires and superimposed that over major US cities:
Derek Watkins created this cool visualization of historical data from the USPS, animating the openings of post offices from 1700 - 1900 on a map of the US, and reflecting the expansion of settlement in the US. (Once a location has enough of a permanent population, there's a need for a post office.)
(Statement prompted by overload of fictional Bin Laden infographics lately.) The blogger: Chiqui Esteban
These are the points of the statement, which I strongly support. Visual journalism is, above any other thing, journalism. 1. An infographic is, by definition, a visual display of facts and data. Therefore, no infographic can be produced in the absence of reliable information.
2. No infographic should include elements that are not based on known facts and available evidence.
3. No infographic should be presented as being factual when it is fictional or based on unverified assumptions.
4. No infographic should be published without crediting its source(s) of information.
5. Information graphics professionals should refuse to produce any visual presentation that includes imaginary components designed to make it more "appealing" or "spectacular". Editors must refrain from asking for graphics that don't stick to available evidence.
6. Infographics are neither illustrations nor "art". Infographics are visual journalism and must be governed by the same ethical standards that apply to other areas of the profession.
This is a cool video about NYT's proprietary tool Cascade built from Processing and MongoDB. Very interesting!