Inception Infographics: Which is the Best Inception Infographic?

The post contains a collection of every infographic I could find based around Chris Nolan’s film Inception. The movie is structurally complex, so the opportunity for clarifying infographics emerged, seized upon by many an inspiring infographic designer. Indeed, Chris Nolan himself drew a sketch diagram himself, from which many of the infographics were inspired.

A few of these are the result of a Fast Company Inception infographic contest, and I’ll point out which as I give a quick comparative review of each. Of course, knowledge of the film is essential, and, on the flip side, this post could be said to provide a dozen forms of spoiler alert.

The infographics cover many of the same elements. The way in which they each treat these elements will define much of the review structure. These include representations of the various levels of dream depth, for each character, location, and kick, as well as depictions of the timescale shift at each level, and significant events. I find it interesting that different infographics treat the crumbling city scene in different ways, some considering it to be Limbo, some as a fourth dream layer with Limbo below THAT.

Ok – here we go.


If you search for Inception infographics, this one comes up more than any other, and I have to side with the masses in calling this my favourite. It’s just so cool. It uses colour very well (one colour for each character, a line for the path they take and background colour to indicate it’s their dream), as part of artwork that is both beautiful and crisp. The image size itself is quite reasonable and yet the content is very legible, showing a great ability to keep things compact. I adore the use of the Penrose triangle as the shape of for the timeline, along with the three-dimensionality of each dream layer.



This one won the FastCompany contest, and its merits are clear. First, not only are the levels of depth shown, but it’s clear who’s who and whose dream it is that people are in. Furthermore, the way Rick Slusher shows the not only the layers, but the fact that each layer is within the layer above it was very well done. The use of concentric circles to capture the timescale change was also a clever touch.

I like the way Mal was incorporated into this, as most of the Inception infographics that attempt the same thing in roughly the same way leave her out. She is, strictly speaking, a projection, but is nonetheless a character and part of the structure.

The author claims to have shaped it like a boot to represent the whole movie as possible Mal trying to “kick” Cobb out of what he thinks is the reality layer. I call BS on that point, but still very much like the infographic and can see how it won the contest.



Stylistically, this one’s nice and colourful (although the grey gradient at the top is a bit cheesy), with a general design structure that largely echoes Nolan’s diagram, so it’s rather clear, but not tremendously original. I like how the change in dream timescale was shown – very simple. Also nice is adding text to each character’s line to indicate an event in relation to that character. Significant events (including kicks) are well-portrayed, but I have to admit, and very much hate to say it considering how much I like humour being added to things, the jokes take away from it.



My first impression of this infographic was not positive, as I expected it to take me too long to figure out. Once I saw what it was trying to accomplish, though, I appreciated its style. Rather than focus on who’s in whose dream, this infographic tries to more simply show the path each character takes through the layers, and I believe achieves this more directly than its competitors. I also appreciate the creativity in the symbolic representation of the characters (instead of mini figures), and the circular maze effect within the safe knob. A nice, clever touch.



At first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s probably easier and would take less time to watch the film again rather than read this infographic, if clarity and understanding is what you’re after. But it’s actually not so bad. I think it goes too far, and I don’t think the first scenes really belong in an Inception infographic, where the help and the interesting structure are in the dreams associated with the inception job, but I like the heads within heads to mean dreams within dreams, and I like the use of colours, which does well to take a complex piece of work and make it easier to digest.

I also appreciate that while they do associate each person with a colour, they still write the person’s name in the mini heads so you don’t have to memorize them. Clearly a lot of work went into this, and it deserves credit for that, deserving its place as Fast Company’s contest runner-up.



This infographic ambitiously tries to explain a great deal of what happens in the story. To me, it clearly just goes to far, and I don’t like that it’s forced into an unmanageable size that makes experiencing it less pleasurable.

I like that dreams within dreams are these clouds within clouds, though, and I appreciate that it’s the only infographic in the list that, in a setting-by-setting way, linearly takes the reader through the experience of watching the film.



While Matt Sinopoli’s infographic wastes the structural potential of the film, I appreciate that it’s trying to do something different, with a much more narrative-oriented explanation of the film and what happens at each dream layer. For someone a bit lost and confused watching, this would serve as a nice and pretty hand-holding.



I like the effort to show the different relative timescales and give the reader a sense of how they compare, but it’s a bit misleading. It shows, for example, that if the entirely of a 10-hour flight was spent 3 levels down, it would be experienced by a person’s mind as 10 years, but of course that’s not the case in the film. Still, interesting for the singular point it makes.



I see how the line connecting each layer is meant to show who’s dreaming, but it’s far less clear than the other infographics. I’m also not sure why there’s a line from Cobb in the first dream level down to himself in Limbo.



This colourless infographic demonstrates the failure side of why colour is so particularly handy for Inception infographics, as it is important to track the characters and whose dream they’re in without much effort. The stick men are a bit boring, too.



I found it strange to use images of the actors that are not in character. A bit lazy. I suppose the triangle shape makes some sense, but the plane is weird as “reality”, and having the word “reality” there, as most of the other infographics do, would make sense.

The connection between the dreams and the dreamers is not easy to see, and could have been helped by having the characters shown left to right in the order of the dreams (so, Arthur to Yusuf’s right).



Aside from finding it a bit ugly, I don’t like that the arrows point down to the very bottom of the dream layer. Or rather, they would be fine if they actually pointed to how far each character went. Yusuf’s dream is the rainy scene, but his arrowhead reaches the bottom of the rainy dream strip, which to me actually points to the hotel strip. I also don’t like that Mal seems to be coming out of Limbo. Or I just don’t get it.


  • Ucekiller

    I like #2!

  • David

    Thanks for including my infographic (no. 10) in your review – agree it’s a little boring compared to the others and colour could have helped but I still find it far easier to read than most of the others which go way over the top with the graphics. No. 1 is great but it’s pretty hard to follow the lines since they’re so tightly packed.

  • Anonymous

    Hey David,

    Nothing personal, of course.

    I did find it certainly clearer than similar competing infographics with a similar layout (#11 and #12), even despite the lack of colour. Still, really, a bit of colour could have gone a long way, perhaps with each character’s vertical line colour matching their dream level horizontal line’s colour? I wonder if something like that could work, if the background grey was lightened a bit to accommodate colour better.

    Many of the others are indeed very graphically heavy. Despite not thinking graphics should get rewarded for their own sake, I find that in most cases the graphics added more than they distracted, and were used to try to accomplish something specific.

    Thank you for taking the time to comment.


  • Jonathan Peter Robson

    I would agree that 2 is the best, many of them have details which help but 2 is the clearest and easiest to follow.

  • Dehahs

    Thanks for picking my infographic as your favorite!

    I really like the second entry as well, it is the best technical representation of the movie timeline. While #8 would be a common solution for depicting time, #2’s use of concentric circles achieves the same result in an elegant manner.

  • Anonymous

    My pleasure! The praise is well-deserved.

    I must say, I don’t think #8 and #2 really do achieve the same result, even though they both deal with timescales. As I say in the review of #8, it shows how much time it would feel like for the character if they spent the whole plane journey at the level in question, wheras #2 shows how much time was spent at the level in question in the actual film, which the concentric circles allow you consider relative to the other layers.

    Thanks for the comment, and for your fine work.

  • Neil Laws

    Hi, Number 4 here, thanks for including me in your review. I had no idea there were so many competitors! Glad you liked it.

  • Anonymous

    Hey Neil, thanks for the comment! Honestly, the more time goes by, the
    more I regret not putting you in the #3 spot. I like what’s currently
    there, but yours is more original and crispier. Really, fine job. I’d
    love to see new work of yours in the future, so please feel free to send
    it my way. Thanks again!

  • JasonFonceca

    Fantastic post! Inception is brilliant and it encouraged and inspired many brilliant graphic designers to try their hand. I’m glad you were able to find value and appreciate the uniqueness of my info-graphic and I appreciate it’s inclusion. (I’m the author of #6) Your comments regarding it sound like great ideas for improvement, if I were to re-make it :D

    You rock, and I’ll check out the rest of your blog.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Jason! Very much appreciated. And thanks for being understanding about my criticism. If you’ve indeed checked out the rest of the blog, you’ve seen that I’m a pretty picky bastard about infographics, but I really do try to acknowledge merits when I see them, and yours did have its share. If you come up with more work, please feel free to send it to me via the contact form.