No Sweat DIY Infographics | Beth’s Blog

No Sweat DIY Infographics

Visual

Most of think about infographics as part of our marketing and communications tool box.  Therefore,  we want an end product that looks good, professional, and captures attention and if we lack graphic design chops  we turn to in-house graphic designers or hire professional designers..    I couldn’t agree more!

But there is another reason to consider “DIY” infographics – as a sense-making technique.    My personal rule in measurement is to spend 30% collecting and organizing data and 70% thinking about what it means.    For me, I need to see patterns and link it back to strategy and tactics.    And, there is no better way consolidate your insights by expressing them as DIY infographic.

Okay, now you’re probably getting stressed out thinking about today’s to do list, that report you have to write, and a day scheduled with back-to-back meetings – and probably think it takes days to create an infographic.   It doesn’t have to be that way.   You don’t have to be the world’s best artist to create a respectable infographic to help you make sense of your data, but it does take a little consideration and small amount of inspiration.   In “The Power of Infographics” Mark Smickilas offers some good recipes for creating your own infographics.     You need to start with data, audience, and time allocation.     For inspiration, check out this Pinboard of nonprofit infographics which will lead you to many more examples.    Now, comes the perspiration part.

Yes, the process of creating your own information design is straightforward but you need to invest some energy learning about design fundamentals and honing your visual thinking skills.    And then there is mastering the tools.   I’ve been looking for free, low cost, easy-to-master tools and templates to reduce some of the sweating.   Here they are:

1.  Microsoft PowerPoint or Publisher: Both of these old standards have layout tools that make it easy to compose your infographic (and export the final product as a graphic image).    I like the Smart Art templates to help me see patterns in my data.    Hubspot just published this awesome collection of infographic templates for Powerpoint.   And, ironically, the templates are just pretty, but they help guide you in planning and designing your infographic.  Take this template that helps you think about how to use color and chunk your information.   The infographic (it’s a snippet – click through to see whole thing) on oral health was created in publisher with clip art.

2.  Clip Art: There’s a lot of clip art around, although a lot of it is ugly.   One of my favorite resources is The Noun Project which is a visual language site that collects and organizes symbols and icons for public use.   It has tons of icons that are easily searched by keyword and you can share your own.  Most are in the public domain.

3.  Know Your Charts and Graphs: Some infographic templates come with charts, but it is useful to take a quick tutorial about knowing what type of chart is best to represent what type of data.    After helping my kids with math homework (they had to represent some data in a chart), I found this awesome, free chart maker at the National Center for Education Statistics.  But the bonus was the tutorial to help you better understand and apply charts.  If you remember your 6th grade math and science, you might want to skip the tutorial and check out the online chart tool (I love the meter charts).   These free tools will save you time, but you don’t have complete control over look and feel.

Then I discovered Chartwell Fonts.   This font lets you take simple strings of numbers and transform them into charts. The visualized data remains editable, allowing for hassle-free updates and styling.   You have to slow down to create the charts and you really how to think about you want to present your data.     When you use automated excel or survey monkey charts, it encourages you to skip that important step.  While it took 20 minutes longer to create these from scratch,  it forced me to really think about the data and it generated additional insights.  That’s the most important thing to me, anyway.

Most of the time you’ll be making charts and graphs of numerical data, but some of your data may be a content analysis or theme analysis – and you can use word clouds to illustrate the frequency of a particular theme.   My favorite free tool for doing that is Wordle

4.   DIY Infographic Tool Suites: There are tool suites out there that combine all of the above into one package.  One of the popular ones is PiktoChart which has a free version.  There are scores of free, low cost, and expensive tools to create your own infographics.

Honestly, for me it was less time consuming to use simple tools because I could focus more on what the data means vs trying to figure out a particular tool works.      I think once I hone my DIY  infographic skills for sense-making so they are second nature,  then I might need to upgrade my tool box.

Are you using DYI infographics to make sense of your data or part of your marketing tool box?  What are your favorite tools?  How are you honing your visual thinking and sense-making skills?

 

 

 

 

23 Responses

  1. Laurel says:

    Thanks for tihs great summary. I have been thinking about how to make our not-very-visual mission and outcomes more FB and Twitter friendly. This info will help me get going.

  2. Fard Johnmar says:

    Beth:

    Thanks for this great guide. We’ve found the Chartwell fonts especially helpful in our infographic development efforts.

  3. Hi Beth,

    I usually use Inkscape, a free vectorial software, hardly less complete than Illustrator. Gimp and Paint.net provide the same free service for pixels, but are definitely not as complete as photoshop. The Serif freewares may replace somewhat Office, although not as complete, but I strongly discourage using freewares such as Libreoffice who look like they’re working on Windows 2000.

    Still, I believe that, without spending 30% presenting your data charts, it needs to be reviewed by yourself, or at the very least sketched by yourself, so that the information you want to emphasize is really the one that will appear, and will not be drown in an overflow of 3D and VFX overdose, which is something that unfortunately still occurs too often with a lot of infographics.

    Last, but not least, is a former article from -if I’m correct- The Agitator, on how infographics and great shows in conference actually hide relevant informations like -did the campaign actually work?- They put up quite a show, but it’s all empty.

    To sum it up, although you have incredibly pertinent information to share, you still need to put up a real pyrotechnic show to get people to notice this info, or it’ll vanish behind the people with the big neon flashing signs waving hysterically at us and whom we cannot ignore.

  4. Stephanie Rogers says:

    Hi Beth, this is a fantastic article! I was JUST talking to my boss today about how I need to develop my data visualization and analysis skills. Your article speaks precisely to the skills I need to develop. I’m really looking forward to checking out all of the links you’ve provided and learning more. Thanks so much!

  5. Thanks a lot for this, Beth. You’re a genius! This is crystal-clear and incredibly useful! (I’ve put my website here but it’s been hacked and I’m using the opportunity to redesign it :-) I’ve been toying with the idea of learning how to make cool infographics, I think NOW is the time, and YOU are the teacher!

  6. [...] No Sweat DIY Infographics | Beth’s Blog [...]

  7. Jan says:

    This is so good. Thank you, Beth.

  8. [...] Most of think about infographics as part of our marketing and communications tool box.  [...]

  9. [...] Most of think about infographics as part of our marketing and communications tool box. Therefore, we want an end product that looks good, professional, and captures attention and if we lack graphic design chops we turn to in-house graphic designers or hire professional designers.. I couldn’t agree more! But there is another reason to consider “DIY” infographics – as a sense-making technique. My personal rule in measurement is to spend 30% collecting and organizing data and 70% thinking about what it means. For me, I need to see patterns and link it back to strategy and tactics. And, there is no better way consolidate your insights by expressing them as DIY infographic. Okay, now you’re probably getting stressed out thinking about today’s to do list, that report you have to write, and a day scheduled with back-to-back meetings – and probably think it takes days to create an infographic. It doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t have to be the world’s best artist to create a respectable infographic to help you make sense of your data, but it does take a little consideration and small amount of inspiration. In “The Power of Infographics” Mark Smickilas offers some good recipes for creating your own infographics. You need to start with data, audience, and time allocation. For inspiration, check out this Pinboard of nonprofit infographics which will lead you to many more examples. Now, comes the perspiration part.  [...]

  10. Danielle says:

    You always make things seem so easy ;) Perhaps thats your magic.

  11. [...] Most of think about infographics as part of our marketing and communications tool box. Therefore, we want an end product that looks good, professional, and captures attention and if we lack graphic design chops we turn to in-house graphic designers or hire professional designers.. I couldn’t agree more! But there is another reason to consider “DIY” infographics – as a sense-making technique. My personal rule in measurement is to spend 30% collecting and organizing data and 70% thinking about what it means. For me, I need to see patterns and link it back to strategy and tactics. And, there is no better way consolidate your insights by expressing them as DIY infographic. Okay, now you’re probably getting stressed out thinking about today’s to do list, that report you have to write, and a day scheduled with back-to-back meetings – and probably think it takes days to create an infographic. It doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t have to be the world’s best artist to create a respectable infographic to help you make sense of your data, but it does take a little consideration and small amount of inspiration. In “The Power of Infographics” Mark Smickilas offers some good recipes for creating your own infographics. You need to start with data, audience, and time allocation. For inspiration, check out this Pinboard of nonprofit infographics which will lead you to many more examples. Now, comes the perspiration part.  [...]

  12. [...] Most of think about infographics as part of our marketing and communications tool box.  [...]

  13. Beth says:

    Danielle: Thanks for your kind words. Here’s my secret. I can make things pretty complicated but that’s why I like to blog because I work hard to simplify … so glad it is useful.

  14. [...] Keys to Effective Communication No-Sweat DIY Infographics [...]

  15. So helpful! I love the tools, but I especially appreciate your reminder not to lose track of the reason for creating products like this in the first place…to help us make sense of critical information, so that we can engage others around those concepts, too. It’s easy to get caught up in wanting things to look super pretty, with the associated danger that we miss distortions or patterns that are the most important points, anyway.

  16. Donna says:

    Wordle is my new favorite!! Thanks for sharing.

  17. [...] make sense of your data, but it does take a little consideration and small amount of inspiration. This article shares some ideas to get the creative juices [...]

  18. Tania Mulry says:

    Beth – this is a great list! Came across the link on Facebook and I was looking for resources for just this very thing! Thanks for compiling such a great resource.

  19. [...] Most of think about infographics as part of our marketing and communications tool box.  [...]

  20. Ted McEnroe says:

    We haven’t used it much yet, but Piktochart also has a major discount for nonprofits in its premium offering. I believe it’s $39.95 per year. I love the site in concept… just need to dig in on it.

  21. [...] you this post yesterday on visual storytelling? Here’s some more advice on how to make infographics [...]

  22. [...] to see nonprofits using new media (like video and infographics) to tell their story. Beth Kanter offers some easy tips for creating infographics. And speaking of cool infographics, check out this one on [...]