After the frivolity and indulgences of NYE, followed by paying the piper on NYD, there comes the inevitable NYR. I’m referring to the highly optimistic New Year’s Resolution. The hope of wiping slates clean and making fresh starts springs eternal, and the outdoor limitations of frigid January weather make it the perfect time for introspection and subsequent plans and logistics.
In the summer of 1812, Napoleon Bonaparte may have done well to fully reflect on the logistics of his forthcoming goals. By that winter, frigid weather played a part in the outcome of his march on—and subsequent retreat from—Moscow, which by some accounts was an epic fail, particularly in loss of life. This brilliant infographic by Charles Joseph Minard illustrates that point in no uncertain terms. Viewing left to right, the height of the tan bar indicates the size of Bonaparte’s Grande Armée at the beginning of the campaign, marching toward Moscow (no doubt full of optimism), thinning as they progress (or perhaps more accurately, regress), until the black bar, reading right to left, shows their retreat from Moscow. When the eye follows it back to the left, the comparison between the size of the army at the start and at the end is immediate and striking.
While this story is fascinating, and you can get an overview of it here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_invasion_of_Russia it struck me that it also illustrates the rise and fall of our best new year intentions. We start out ‘marching’ toward self-improvement victory, only to meet with challenges and distractions that we didn’t anticipate or weren’t prepared for. In short, we are not properly equipped with the logistics to handle the frigid realities of major change. And so, as shown in Minard’s graphic, our once hefty optimism dwindles to a thin reed, as we find ourselves retreating in defeat toward the end of another year.
When it comes to resolutions I have no words of wisdom or advice worth sharing. However, I can say this: if brevity is the soul of wit, it is surely the heart of the infographic. Done well, infographics convey complex data in the best and simplest of terms, as Monsieur Minard has proved. Naturally, you could tell someone that Napoleon’s march started with 442,000 men and ended with 10,000. But it’s not nearly the same, because without a visual reference, there’s no way to succinctly put it into a context that resonates.
Whether or not you choose to march toward betterment, here’s to the promise a new year brings. At PrintGraphics, we’re embarking on the expansion of our social media presence. This blog post is our first step in a long march. Come December, an infographic will surely illustrate the outcome of our efforts.