Infographics

Infographics are all the rage these days.

 

powerofinfographicsImage 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.

Infographic-of-infographics

Image credit – http://www.sociagility.com/category/visualisation/

 

Bring out the Gimp

One of the first things I had to do in my internship was to start creating some graphics. Posters, flyers, promotional material, headers, banners and any sort of visual images that the organisation wants.

I was dreading this becuase I do not think I am very visual. I prefer to work with text. I have used layout software (InDesign) in the past and the experience has not been a good one, because I was trying to learn off an old manual.

So, I was wary when I was told that I was going to be learning some graphic design as part of the internship. They set me up with this odd thing called Gimp ( the Gnu Image Manipulation Program), which appears to be similar to PhotoShop. It is free and open source, which is a huge advantage compared to PhotoShop. The basic principle appears to be based on the concept of layers. Images are uploaded as layers and manipulated (resized, cropped, changed and moved about) and then all the layers are finally merged into one.

gimp28

 

So far, it seems to work well. It has some unique peculiarities but it has many of the same shortcuts that other graphic packages have. I am having some fun with it.

Anybody out there used it?

 

Image credit – http://gimp-win.sourceforge.net/

A bit of competition never hurt anyone?

h_facebookrules

If you are like me, you will be fairly sick of facebook competitions. I find nothing worse than my feed being filled up with pictures of iPads as people share and like in an effort to get their hands on anything from spa treatments to round-the-world-trips.

Business is business though, so I wasn’t surprised when I had to create a facebook competition over the Christmas period. What I was surprised with was the rules and regulations that you have to follow in order to create a facebook competition. Here are some of the hoops you have to jump through.

1. You should use a third party app when creating a competition on facebook.

2. You cannot use any facebook options such as liking, sharing or posting status updates as entry requirements in a competition.

3. You cannot announce any winners in a facebook status update.

4. You must ensure that you have an announcement that Facebook is in no way connected to your competition.

The reason I found this so confusing is because these rules do not appear to be followed at all by most businesses. Every one of the facebook competitions I see in my feed are breaking these regulations in some way or another. This leaves the Information Professional with a bit of a dilemma. Ignore the regulations and do what everyone else is doing or look for ways of creating competitions while staying within the boundaries? This is where Information Professionals can help their organisation.

There are plenty of ways of creating competitions on facebook which will not leave your organisation in danger of having their facebook page deleted. Use of apps is one, as is the use of company websites or blogs. These can actually work out better for you because they are also driving traffic to your own site. Despite the proliferation of free-for-all competitions in my feed, organisations are having their pages deleted. We do not hear about them, but it is happening. Understandably, organisations do not want to talk about it. They are usually too busy trying to get their audience back again, which means starting from scratch.

So, next time you want to create a competition, put a little bit of thought into how to safeguard your audience while you are at it. Stay safe.