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Make Your Own Infographic

Infographics are to data what storytelling is to an annual report: a more engaging way to help bring attention and understanding to your nonprofit’s cause. Yesterday we looked at an interesting infographic that suggested a new way to view your volunteers. Today, let’s look at infographics in general – and resources to help your nonprofit get started on making your own.

As Wikipedia explains, “Information graphics are visual devices intended to communicate complex information quickly and clearly”:

Information graphics or infographics are visual representations of information, data or knowledge. These graphics are used where complex information needs to be explained quickly and clearly, such as in signs, maps, journalism, technical writing, and education. ... They illustrate information that would be unwieldy in text form, and act as a visual shorthand for everyday concepts...

For example, compare the Portrait of a Volunteer infographic we talked about yesterday with Pew Internet’s more conventional Portrait of a Twitter User, where a similar type of data is presented in a simple table. The stats are equally interesting, but the meaning they convey (a picture of a “typical” individual) takes a little more time and thought for the reader to extract and absorb.

Any time you can translate data into an infographic – a compelling visual representation – you’re making it easier for your audience to take in the meaning behind the numbers.  In the words of CNN, “when it comes to making data sexy, you can't be too graphic”!

 

Getting Started with Infographics

If you’re not sure where to start to create your first infographic, remember that annotated maps, flow charts, graphs, many of the diagrams you may already be creating on the job can help your audience to see the meaning behind your data. Not sexy and artistic, you might think, but even a simple graphic is far more effective than asking your prospective supporters to study a spreadsheet – if done right! 

Here’s a little help for figuring out what information you want to communicate, which data points to select, and how to present the numbers in a way that will be both accurate and accessible to numerically challenged viewers:

If your goal is to create an infographic so very cool that it’s bound to “go viral,” however, you’ll want to go well beyond the same-old-same-old bar chart. Here are some great sources of practical instruction and design inspiration for truly creative data visualizations:

If Graphic is Good... Interactive is Better

You’ll have noticed that Portrait of a Volunteer isn’t simply an artistic chart – it’s an interactive “action sheet.” Click through to the infographic to see how it works. You can pan and zoom around to view the whole thing. it’s an efficient way to get a large infographic into a small space on the screen, yes – but  even more importantly, viewers are likely to spend more time exploring your content when they’re actively engaged with it in some way.

A fancy Flash presentation like those funded by Pepsi/GOOD might be a bit beyond the budget and tech resources of a small nonprofit, but don’t let that hold you back!  A little imagination goes a long way, with the help of technology.

Tech tools for better infographics

Do take advantage of the tech tools you can find online to help automate the process of turning data into graphics. Some of the free and low-cost tools for data visualization are remarkably sophisticated and yet quite user-friendly. Here a couple of possibilities to consider:

  • The New York Times’ Visualization Lab lets you create your own visualizations using data from news sources, using Many Eyes technology from IBM Research – or go directly to Many Eyes to use your own data.
  • Tableau Public (free software to download and install on your computer, from Tableau Software) lets you create really stunning visualizations – for an example, see Annette Greiner’s The Geography of Diabetes: play with the sliders at the lower right to change what data is included on the map.
  • Free and open-source Simile Widgets (Timeline, Exhibit, Timeplot and Runway web widgets for data visualization) are an exciting little spin-off from a project at MIT – and I can’t wait to find an excuse to use one or more of these on a website!

4244428288_759c35a013_mWhat other free or low-cost tools would you add to the list?

When it comes to pulling together the project, draw on the diverse talents of your members and volunteers as well as staff – for someone with a talent for design, this sort of creative project can be a refreshing change from stuffing envelopes! Or check with a local school or college to see if there’s a chance of a student project to create your infographic. You might even want to turn your data loose on the public and hold an infographic contest, online or offline or both – which can have the site benefit of bringing attention to your organization.

Consider: what graphics, photographs, etc. do you already have (or have access to) that could be put to work as part of a fresh infographic?  And how might your organization be able to repurpose your online infographics for offline use, too – in your brochures, direct mail materials, conference presentations, and other communications opportunities?

Has your nonprofit created an infographic, to help explain your mission or to give life to statistics related to your cause? 

As always, please share your tips and ideas in the comments!


Image credits: GDS Digital, stahlmandesign, c21realestate,
bschmove, The Lightworks, dougbelshaw  via Flickr

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Comments

  • LoriStassi@aol.comLoriStassi@aol.com

    LoriStassi@aol.com said:

    Hi. You've probably heard of him but Edward Tufte is an infographics genius. here's the url for his website: http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/

    you can also find his books on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=edward+tufte%27s&index=stripbooks

    but he's a wonderfully engaging speaker to hear. It's worthwhile attending his lectures or seminars.

    Great post

    Lori Stassi

    LoriStassi@yahoo.com

    lorisch@aolcom (Twitter)

    http://www.linkedin.com/in/loristassi (LinkedIn)

    I'd love to have you follow me on LinkedIn and vise versa

    Tuesday, 25 May 2010 at 7:06 PM
  • Jack LuckyJack Lucky

    Jack Lucky said:

    Great article. Good resource for making great and useful infographic.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Tuesday, 25 May 2010 at 10:51 PM
  • roger@rogertitley.comroger@rogertitley.com

    roger@rogertitley.com said:

    Great, a really thought provoking article that has made me think about representing some of our agile methodology diagrams in a new and more artistic fashion.  I had never heard of infographics until now, but I am a definite convert.

    Thanks the ideas

    Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 11:30 AM
  • Pablo EdwardsPablo Edwards

    Pablo Edwards said:

    Thanks for sharing.  You always get me thinking more than when I started reading your posts.  I really appreciate your insights.

    Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 9:10 PM
  • Web Trend ForumWeb Trend Forum

    Web Trend Forum said:

    Picture is worth a thousand words. Graphics not only present the theme behind the data connectivity but they also save a lot of time and make things easy to understand. Nice share :)

    Tuesday, 01 June 2010 at 9:55 AM
  • Elissa SchloesserElissa Schloesser

    Elissa Schloesser said:

    Thanks for the article with a ton of great links. I am always looking for infographic resources.

    Friday, 11 June 2010 at 12:24 PM
  • TSSVelosoTSSVeloso

    TSSVeloso said:

    Great selection of resources, Rebecca, congratulations.

    A few extra for those who wish to go deeper on this:

    - Inpired Magazine has a nice round-up of the best Flickr Groups for infographics ( http://www.inspiredm.com/2010/05/09/the-best-flickr-groups/ )

    - Visual Loop has over 5.500 infographics and data-vizualitions about pretty much every topic ( http://visualoop.tumblr.com/ ), and puts up about 20 new ones everyday.

    Keep up your great work!

    @TSSVeloso

    Wednesday, 13 October 2010 at 6:13 AM
  • Rebecca said:

    Thanks, @TSSVeloso - two great additions to the infographic resource list!

    Wednesday, 13 October 2010 at 8:23 AM
  • Amber LaurinAmber Laurin

    Amber Laurin said:

    I am a PR student and was asked to create an infographic for an on campus client.  When I first started the assignment I knew nothing about infographics.  With the growing popularity of social media sites, I think that infographics will soon be a necessary accompaniment to news stories.  Thank you so much for sharing this information.  

    Tuesday, 30 November 2010 at 11:49 AM
  • Rebecca said:

    Glad to be able to help you out, Amber - good luck with your assignment!

    Tuesday, 30 November 2010 at 4:58 PM
  • Joseph GatosJoseph Gatos

    Joseph Gatos said:

    Great article, this adds a lot of value to the rest of us, Im currently learning about infographics, thanks for sharing the links and resources on the subject, it is vaueable info.

    Saturday, 18 December 2010 at 10:02 AM
  • Dawson MitchellDawson Mitchell

    Dawson Mitchell said:

    We are in the process of creating an infographic, using some of the free resources.  We haven't had any so far that are that great. They seem to look more like tag clouds.  

    Glad I found this with all the resources.

    @Rebecca - I would love to hear about any success stories in a social way or link baiting way that you have seen from creating a infographic.

    It seems the sites that we would post to, would make the link back go to the page it was hosted on, not the creator.  

    Any help would be appreciated

    Thursday, 03 February 2011 at 9:50 AM
  • Mike from CanadaMike from Canada

    Mike from Canada said:

    Love it, love it,love it! Been a big fan of infographics for along time, but afraid to tackle it because of the seeming complexity. Your article provides a detailed breakdown of the overall process which will go far in disarming the hesitancy on my part to pursue this type of design. Thank you!

    Wednesday, 20 April 2011 at 8:57 PM
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