Infographics are a visually striking means of combining data and text to make an argument or illustrate a thesis. They’re easy to understand and easy to share through social media, so they’ve become an extremely popular means of information sharing. Don’t believe me? Here’s a pinboard of library-related infographics respectfully submitted for your amusement and edification.
Before going further I want to show you two detailed snips from two very different infographics. This first one was made by goodreads and is fueled by data and comments from their users:
If you’d like to see the whole thing, it’s available here.
Next up is a very different approach to data visualization from the good people at the Pew Internet and American Life Project:
The whole infographic replete with all its great and sundry data is available here.
Now, you know that the credibility of any data lies in its source, their methodology, and your ability to verify and reproduce it. While the Pew data is much harder and their methodology more sound than that of goodreads, I think few would argue that goodreads presented their data in a far more compelling and convincing manner. This tells us as much about human psychology as it does about infograhics. Here’s the takeaway, while solid data is exquisite, very few will pay attention to it unless it is neatly and sensibly presented and organized around a clearly stated theme. This is where well-thought out infograhpics excel and its why they go viral.
Want to make your own ingofraphics? Of course you do! Lucky for you, it’s relatively easy and will cost you anywhere from nothing (yay!) to not that much really (meh).
I’ve taken a number of free infographic generators for a test drive, and my favorite by far is Piktochart.
Piktochart is a freemium web-based app with an easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface and excellent chart integration. This last bit is important as you want to be sure your data displays nicely. For whatever reason, not every infographic generator will scale your charts to match your data. You don’t want to be in the business of eyeballing bar graphs for proportionality, so don’t enter it.
The free version of Piktochart grants you access to seven themes and the blank canvas. You should be aware that shared infographics from free accounts will be watermarked at the very bottom. Licensed use gets you a wealth of additional themes and removes the watermark at a cost of $39.99/year for educators.
Once you create an account or sign in, you can pick a theme to start designing from. The blank canvas is definitely where you’ll be heading most often, as it provides maximum flexibility. After you choose a theme, you’ll see that your chart dominates the window and all the design elements at your disposal are accessible from a toolbar on the left. Here is what the Tools menu looks like:
And here are the options available through the Share menu:
The best way to learn to use it is to play around with it. The design interface is clean and simple. Select elements and drag them to your infographic-to-be to add them. Once they’re added, you can manipulate them in a variety of useful ways. Data elements like charts and maps are also interactive, so that when a viewer hovers over a data point, they’ll get detailed information about it–because for some, that stuff matters!
If you’d like to learn more about infographics and alternate infographic creation tools, I highly recommend you explore Dani Brecher’s Infographic DIY libguide, which she presented at LibTech 2014.