Infographic and Data Visualization Tools Galore

Dec 18, 2011

UPDATED March 2013

We enjoyed recording webinar sessions with Marc Johnson of marcato multimedia, which will appear later on Emmys.com for the Television Academy’s new educational series.  We compared notes on resources available to create infographics and data visualizations for presentations and storytelling.  I had begun a broader search, and created this list to share with Marc and readers of my blog.

A Bit of Background on Infographics

Infographics have been adopted by newspapers, PR, and others who want to share complex information for audiences to pass along.  Sharing JPGs can be easier than sharing links, and has been referred to as linkbait in its ease of drawing social media links and referrals.  Infographics are part of a whole spectrum of info-glut or infoporn.  Job titles in this space also get expansive, including  information artist, information designer, data enterprise editor, and visualization scientist.

I’m just a social scientist dealing with change management, however.  I’m also amused at all the great tools out there at our disposal as less sophisticated storytellers using diverse sets of data.

Some Good Examples of Infographics

Some remarkable articles share regular “best” infographic lists, “how to’s,” and methods articles.  Here’s just a few for perusing:

Enjoyable Infographics Tools

So what can we use to tell digital graphic stories?  I’ll start with easier, and work to more complex.

Playing with Words

  • Wordle – http://www.wordle.net – fun tool to turn words from documents into word maps
  • Tagxedo — http://www.tagxedo.com – similar to Wordle, Tagxedo lets you create word clouds and sculptures from URLs, Tweets, and other social media documents, as well as export them into a variety of formats.

Playing with Maps

We can tinker with maps, both as pre-made images as well as data-driven tools.

Playing with Concept Maps

Several tools let you expand how you lay out concept maps and linked ideas:

  • FreeMindhttp://freemind.sourceforge.net – I enjoy this free tool.  Graphically simple, it lets you play with a free tool for mind mapping that can be adapted into all sorts of other applications.
  • Webspiration – http://www.webspirationpro.com – I miss its freemium mode; it now has a trial period and then costs $6/month.  I found Inspiration and Webspiration wonderful for group presentations and immediate work.
  • VUE by Tufts — http://vue.tufts.edu  — I really enjoy this “Visual Understanding Environment” tool, which combines concept maps with search and graphics.

Playing with Presentations, Charts, and Graphs

I tend to live in PowerPoint, and enjoy some of the extenders that work with it.  Beyond PowerPoint, there are some great presentation, chart, and graph tools.

Presentations

  • Prezi — http://www.prezi.com — My recent undergraduate class spent half of their projects in Prezi, which has a zooming camera metaphor across a vast digital white board.  They enjoyed putting in music, video, and other embedded content.  I got a bit dizzy, but enjoyed the creativity.
  • Sliderocket — http://www.sliderocket.com — Several of my students enjoyed using Sliderocket for class presentations.  It gave them a robust and elegant toolset to work with.
  • Brainshark — http://www.brainshark.com — Friends who are professional business development executives heartily recommend Brainshare as a way to pre-package and present content at a distance.  We’ve just started working with them as a teaching/broadcasting medium here at Maremel.

Graphs and Charts

  • Gliffy — http://www.gliffy.com/ — I just found Gliffy, a great diverse creator of charts and graphs.  Different versions of it work with different social workspace/sharing software:
  • Many Eyes — http://www-958.ibm.com/software/data/cognos/manyeyes/ — an experiment by IBM Research and the IBM Cognos software group let users create and evaluate data visualizations.
  • GGobi — http://www.ggobi.org/ — free data visualization tool for your datasets
  • Mondrian — http://www.rosuda.org/Mondrian/ — open source toolset for charting and graphing data plots and more complex graphs and data-driven visuals
  • OpenDX — http://www.opendx.org —  Older open source software, based on IBM’s visualization data explorer.
  • Spotfire — https://silverspotfire.tibco.com – a whole visualization suite, free for individuals for the first year, then $99/year thereafter.
  • Visualizefree — http://www.visualizefree.com/ — Sampler of more complex system; shows real-time images from the FAA of flights as a sample
  • Mycrocosm — http://mycro.media.mit.edu/ — quirky tool to create displays of your own personal data that you can input by cell or email and track

Playing with Motion Charts

  • Hans Rosling’s Gapminder Foundation worked with Trendalyzer, which then was sold to Google in 2007, then folded away when Google Labs.
  • VIDI — http://www.dataviz.org/ — VIDI Data, run by the Jefferson Institute, provides a visualization module for Drupal CMS to show motion charts, timelines, geodata, and comparative data.
  • TrendCompass — http://epicsyst.com/trendcompass — lets you add your own data to their data visualization tool if you register
  • Eurostat Explorer — http://www.ncomva.se/flash/explorer/euro/ — sample with EU data that can be played with using a motion graphic.

Playing with Images

Playing with Data Resources

There are lots of extensive tools to work with large public databases.

Additional Tools

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