I love data, especially numbers. In science numbers are facts. There is no subjectivity in them, they just are. In marketing, numbers are data points which can be manipulated into visualizations like charts, maps and infographics to tell a story, convey a message or change a viewpoint. Data can reveal truth and produce lies. Beautiful has been used to describe intellectual creations like poetry, paintings, iPads and data visualizations because all involve skills, which are arts, which are the very best representations of human intelligence, perception and ingenuity.
Well, today I began an exhaustive search to discover how to create impactful and appealing infographics. It’s been very frustrating, but I’d like to share what I’ve found.
You’ve probably seen tons of Infographics that require scrolling down a web page, jump from image to image, throw in some random numbers and provoke you to retweet it. There are even infographics about these infographics. Well chances are these were made in Adobe Illustrator, the preferred software for professional infographic creators.
For your viewing pleasure: http://www.coolinfographics.com/
IBM just keeps proving that geeks actually deserve to rule the world–or at least the web. Many Eyes is another one of their many web-based projects which crowdsource internet intellect using their user-friendly tools. Simply register yourself, convert some spreadsheets to CSV files (easy in Excel), upload your data and play!
An opensource alternative to Adobe Illustrator. Great for vectors and diagrams, but more of the graphic artist tools as in Adobe. You’ll still probably want to do some data graphing in Excel or another program, unless you’re using stats from someone else’s data source. (Lame – what fun is an infograph without you’re own revelations!)
Desktop app you can use to make diagrams connecting various images. Think org charts or SmartArt. Most likely you’ll need another application to create mr artistic representations. I suggest Gimp, a free version of Photoshop.
Where geeks get bipartisan, pairing left and right brain creativity and math skills. You can’t of course make an entire classic infograph, but you can make some majorly awesome charts and review your college level calc courses in the process! Say it with me: Soh cAh Jewea.
Excel + PowerPoint
I know it sounds a little too hackish, but those beautiful infographs were created by turning raw data into pretty charts. You probably do this all the time creating new business proposals or client reports. Just add a few picture graphics, fill it into a PowerPoint slide and save as a PDF. Voila, the poor man’s Adobe Illustrator. (Or poor woman in this case.)
Some semi-random semi-useless infograph creators:
Yes as a database of infographs Visualy is super cool, but as it has yet to launch its infograph creation shop to the public, its only functionality is to make jabs at other digitalitists with this feature: Twitterize Yourself. The app allows you to compare your Twittertasticness with another person’s handle, or two random handles, like celebrities.
How healthy are you? Your Foursquare check-ins can now tell you! Well…if you check-in everywhere. GoodHop is a webapp that puts your Foursquare check-ins into a personalized infograph with scores on how healthy you are.
Was an awesome way to visualize your Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places check-ins (kind of like Apple did freakily with your iPhone), however as of August the Foursquare service was put on hold. Hopefully it will be back, because no one I know uses Gowalla, and Facebook Places has been about as successful as Google Buzz.
And for Dessert, interactive data visualization:
Create maps and charts that move!
As per the best data visualizer around, (sorry if this I’ve already posted this, blows my mind everytime):