Infographics are all the rage these days.
Image credit – http://namedropnyc.com
So I thought that I would mess around with a few of the many free options out there.
Piktochart offers about five free themes which you can adapt. You can upload images and drag a drop a range of shapes, graphs and texts to your template. The toolbar offers a range of editing features which are standard on graphic packages. Not bad.
Infogr.am seemed pretty good at first. It is designed for the newsroom. It offers a broad range of charts. Everything from scatter plots to wordclouds. I just ran into problems publishing the finished product with this, so that lost points.
Visual.ly offered very limited templates. There was nothing you could do with them beyond compare your twitter accounts to someone elses or create an infographic about your facebook landscape. If that was what you wanted, it could be done in 5 minutes. Moving on.
Easel.ly is another free service for infographics. It has a library of graphics with ten categories. Everything from people to transportation. It had a grid to aid layout so that was handy.
Creately (a little bit samey on the names?) was my favourite. It is a collaborative diagramming tool and you can use it for making lots of different things. Everything from infographics to wireframes. This gave me the most scope for design and narrative.
These were just a few of the options out there. There are many more and they all present your information in slightly different ways. Most of them allowed you to input data manually or through the use of excel or csv files. I had fun playing with them.
Infographics are great for getting information across. A picture tells a thousand words, but an infographic takes those thousand words and squeezes them into whopping great images. Marketers love them. Designers love making them. The rest of us go, oh look, cartoon information. Cool.
They are not new though. Infographics have been used since at least the 19th century, possibly earlier, depending on how you define them. I would class maps as infographics, because they often contain information about ownership through the use of colour. That is their purpose, to use as many different graphical elements as possible to replace data, or visualise it in a different way.
They have come to their fore in the last few years with the rise in information. Anything which condenses and presents data in a more accessible manner is bound to be useful to people today. Infographics can also be interactive these days. They can show variations and change throughout time in a way that data on its own just fails miserably at, unless you are Sheldon Cooper.
From playing around with all these tools, I came to the conclusion that infographics are best left to designers. Hence, I have not included any of my efforts. Good infographics tell a story, otherwise they are just graphical representations of data. That is their added value.
Image credit – http://www.sociagility.com/category/visualisation/