Five years ago, almost nobody knew what the heck an infographic was. (I sure didn’t, and I was a graphic design major in college at the time.)
Now that the infographic craze has saturated us with new visual knowledge (and marketing gimmicks), something interesting has happened: The creation of infographics has become democratized. No longer is the act of creating a visual data story confined to professional designers using professional tools like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. Now anyone with a data set can build an infographic.
Trust me when I say that with these tools, you don’t have to be a designer to create a high-quality, effective infographic. Does this mean there’s no place for professional designers and data? Not at all. Uniqueness and customization will always carry a premium (as Column Five can attest), but there are plenty of instances where a prefab or low-cost alternative can be mighty useful.
With that in mind, I’ve cobbled together a list of five services/methods that even non-designers can use to create or commission great infographics.
Infogr.am: All The Bells And Whistles
Infogr.am is free, and free is good. It’s a popular platform that has seen more than 800,000 infographics created to-date. Infogr.am is nice and simple, but the features it does have are power-packed. For instance, you can make more than 30 different types of charts (compared to 11 in Excel). Speaking of Excel, Infogr.am’s built-in spreadsheet editor makes editing data easy and enables importing of XLS and CSV files.
One of its best features is the ability to download files in PNG or PDF format. This is perfect for including the infographic in a presentation or emailing itto a colleague. Many people will like the fact that you can publish your infographic online, which makes it sharable and embeddable. If your data is sensitive, give it a password and a private link.
Infogr.am is far and away my favorite online infographics editor.
InfoActive: Interactive, Live And Mobile-Friendly
Of all the infographic tools that claim to make data “fun,” (there are more than you’d think), InfoActive – now in beta testing - probably comes closest to delivering on the promise. It’s unique features – including interactivity and live data - make it seem more “up-to-date” than the competition.
The platform lets you visualize data that isn’t just static - a big plus in today’s environment where people want to become part of the story. The addition of embedding live data is important given how quickly information can become outdated. The InfoActive website phrases it like this: “Hitting ‘publish’ isn’t the end of the story; it’s just the beginning.”
Simplicity is a core feature here: the InfoActive site boasts that you don’t even need a tutorial to get started. No word yet on what, if anything, InfoActive will cost post-beta.
Piktochart: Drag-And-Drop Templates Galore
For $29 a month, Piktochart gives you access to a WYSIWYG editor that will let you drag and drop elements to create an infographic. Some 300,000 users strong, including clients such as Harvard University, Red Bull and GE, Piktochart has built that following on the back of more than 90 included themes. But from a design standpoint, many of those themes are decent, but others are mundane or downright bad.
As with Infogr.am, you can share your creations via social networks or download print-quality files. If you like the Piktochart editor - which is free to try - you may find the service worth paying for. One nice bonus: In the latest version, Piktochart lets users create search friendly graphics!
Easel.ly: Theme-Based Drag-And-Drop With Objects
Like InfoActive, Easel.ly is currently in beta. Easel.ly also takes a theme-based, drag-and-drop WYSIWYG approach to infographic creation, but it comes loaded with a modest selection of just 10 “vhemes” (visual themes).
Easel.ly sets itself apart by making it easy to insert a selection of objects from categories as varied as people, banners, icons, animals and nature (among others).
While the current theme selection is a bit limited, people who enjoy the platform and interface can completely customize their infographics through the upload feature.
Many Eyes V2: Pre-Made Visualization Filters
While there are no themes in the new (beta) version of IBM’s Many Eyes, there are 11 different ways to visualize data, many of which you won’t find on the other platforms and services listed here. These visualization features let you go beyond pie charts to harness the power of word trees, heat maps, tree maps and yes, the infamous word cloud.
It all starts by uploading a data set (or selecting one from the site, though many are basically useless at the moment) and then simply applying a visualization style. The visualizations can be broken down into three categories: Compare A Set Of Values Track Rises And Falls Over Time See Parts Of A Whole
One of the coolest options is the View In Context visualization, a type of line graph that shows changes in data over a long set of intervals (like time, for example).
Note that the output of Many Eyes might not technically qualify as an infographic all by itself. But it’s a great tool to add variety to other offerings, like Infogr.am.
Lead image courtesy of Shutterstock.