Designing The Cover

Designing The Cover | Information Is Beautiful

In an ideal world, people don’t judge a book by its cover. In the real world, however, they do.
In fact, they really do. So much so that a bad cover can kill a book dead – even an hilariously brilliant book ;)

In short, creating the UK cover for Information Is Beautiful was an agonizing yet gloriously creative pain in the ass. Over eight months, the publishers, HarperCollins, myself and various designers created over 90 different versions.

See all 90 covers in chronological order.

(N.B. The US division had their cover for done in a jiff. One draft – poof! They called it The Visual Miscellaneum)

Overall, we were seeking that harmonious sweet spot between title, theme, vibe, accessibility and commercial appeal. We searched long and hard, as the wise sages say you must. Here are some highlights of that long journey.

Please note: many of the images here are roughs and early concepts.

In the beginning…

Designing The Cover | Information Is Beautiful
Mar 2008: This beautiful image, created by A-Side Studios in Cornwall, England, was the original inspiration. I loved the simplicity and the organic feel. That’s a picture of my brain!


Designing The Cover | Information Is Beautiful
Sep 2008: The title of the book changed quite a lot. The working title was “The Information Atlas” with the subtitle “Charts and guides for navigating the information world”. But the publishers didn’t like the word “atlas”. Too boring sounding.

I got hooked on the title ‘Infovisualized’ after that. Then “InfoVision”. For a while, I even really liked the “Imaginomicon” - hey, c’mon I was tired!

But none of those scored highly with my long-suffering friends or the publishers. So they were dumped.

The Information

Designing The Cover | Information Is Beautiful
Oct 2008 Meanwhile, the publishers were keen to called it “The Information”. But I moaned that it wouldn’t come up in an internet search. And it would have to compete with a superior Beck album and an arguably-superior Martin Amis novel.

Instead I proposed the title “Beautiful Knowledge”, a doff to Edward Tufte’s Beautiful Evidence. But then someone said it sounded like a perfume. “Beautiful Knowledge – a fragance for nerds.” I went off it.


MAR 2009 Eventually, after eight months, after much frowning and meetings and frowning in meetings,we were decided. The book would be called “Visualized!”. A few cover directions were immediately mooted.

Designing The Cover | Information Is Beautiful
I bought the domain and everything. It seemed settled.


June 2009 I was getting ready to launch this website. But I faced a problem. The US edition was called ‘The Visual Miscellaneum’ and the UK title “Visualized!’. How could the two be reconciled under a single web address?

I thought instead of creating a composite title, maybe I could come up with an idea that bridged the two? But what?

While books are about ideas, blogs are maybe more about passions. What was the passionate belief behind the book? Well, um, …i love information…and I love design..they work so well together to express the latent beauty of information…because…because…information is beautiful

I liked it.

In passing, I mentioned the new website name to my publishers and they spat out their coffee. “That’s a great title!” they. And so it came to pass.

It meant, of course, redesigning the cover.

At this point, this was the last thing I wanted to do. 18 months into working on the book, I was very tired, mentally and creatively. But we were close. I could smell it.

Designing Covers Is Not Always Beautiful

Designing The Cover | Information Is Beautiful
Jul 2009: The concept was: ‘something beautiful made out of information’. And what’s more beautiful than a flower? So the info flower was planted.

The centre of the image is data on the meaning of colours in different cultures, designed by myself and US designers Beautiful and meaningful and looking simultaneously like an eye, and like a flower, and like a mystical thought-form like a chakra. Nice!

Here’s the final:

Designing The Cover | Information Is Beautiful
It’s not a classic. But I think it succinctly symbolises the theme and atmosphere of the book: that visualized information can be beautiful.

Thanks so much to Jeremy Mac Lynn, Lucie Jordan, Claire Kingston, Hannah MacDonald and the awesome team at HarperCollins for their patience.

See all 91 different covers
See the final ‘Colours In Cultures’ image
Grab a beautiful print of the Colours In Cultures image