Infographics and Data Visualization

Overviews

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Infographics

Infographics (or information graphics) present information and data visually. Infographics can include text, graphs, charts, diagrams, tables, maps, lists, and other forms of data visualization. Typically infographics are meant to be consumed on digital devices (tablets and/or phones) so they are often long and skinny, but not all infographics use this layout.

Recommended Software:

  • CanvaThis online program has a limited free option, as well as monthly and annual subscriptions at a cost. Many of the functions of Canva are free, but there are certain elements available via a subscription. Canva files are created online and can be downloaded as PNG, JPEG, or PDF. They do not always allow for collaboration in the free option. Additionally, alignment tools are there but are not easy to follow.

  • PiktochartThis online program has a limited free option, as well as monthly and annual subscriptions at a cost. Piktochart files are created online and can be downloaded as PNG files. These files are usually lower in resolution and are meant to be viewed on a screen. They do not allow for collaboration in the free option and they only allow for 5 active projects at a time. Additionally, alignment tools are difficult to use. However, this software is very good for making charts and graphs!

  • Adobe InDesign: This software is available to UW-Madison students, faculty, and staff via InfoLab machines, both in the labs and for checkout. Using a Creative Cloud account will allow for easy transition from one computer to another. With layers and alignment tools, this is one of the best options for creating posters if you know or have time to learn the software.

  • Adobe Illustrator: Like InDesign, this software is available to UW-Madison students, faculty, and staff via InfoLab machines, both in the labs and for checkout. Using a Creative Cloud account will allow for easy transition from one computer to another. With layers and alignment tools, this is another good alternative for creating posters if you know or have time to learn the software.

Adobe Photoshop Logo

  • Adobe Photoshop: Like InDesign and Illustrator, this software is available to UW-Madison students, faculty, and staff via InfoLab machines, both in the labs and for checkout. Using a Creative Cloud account will allow for easy transition from one computer to another. With layers and alignment tools, as well as plenty of photo editing capabilities, this is another good alternative for creating infographics if you know or have time to learn the software.

  • Microsoft PowerPoint: This software is available to UW-Madison students, faculty, and staff via Office 365. It is also installed on all InfoLab machines, both in the labs and for checkout. Using OneDrive will allow for collaboration between multiple creators. PowerPoint also works with Excel to easily make charts and graphs. This is usually the standard software for creating research posters, however, there are limited alignment and design tools.

  • Google Slides: This software is available to UW-Madison students, faculty, and staff via G Suite (formerly known as Google Apps). It is a web-based system, so can transition easily between multiple computers regardless of operating systems. Google Slides are also very good for collaboration, as they allow multiple users to edit at one time. This software is based heavily on PowerPoint, so there are limited alignment and design tools for this software.

  • Apple Keynote: This is a proprietary software program that is available only for Apple products. It is installed on all InfoLab machines, both in the labs and for checkout under the Mac partition. There are limited alignment tools, but the Keynote design tools are more extensive than Microsoft PowerPoint and Google Slides.
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Data Visualization

Data visualizations are the presentation of data in a pictorial, graphical, or map formats. While infographics are a form of data visualization, data visualizations are not always infographics. Instead data visualizations can be simply charts or maps. The goal of data visualizations are to streamline information or research so it is easy for viewers to comprehend. (See “Maps” below for software specific to map making.)

Recommended Software:

Microsoft Excel: This software is available to UW-Madison students, faculty, and staff via Office 365. It is also installed on all InfoLab machines, both in the labs and for checkout. Using OneDrive will allow for collaboration between multiple creators. This is usually the standard software for creating graphs and charts, however, there are limited alignment tools and the built in designs are often not aesthetically pleasing without customization.

  • Canva: This online program has a limited free option, as well as monthly and annual subscriptions at a cost. Many of the functions of Canva are free, but there are certain elements available via a subscription. Canva files are created online and can be downloaded as PNG, JPEG, or PDF. They do not always allow for collaboration in the free option.

  • Piktochart: This online program has a limited free option, as well as monthly and annual subscriptions at a cost. Piktochart files are created online and can be downloaded as PNG files. These files are usually lower in resolution, but making the dimensions larger will allow for downsizing with a higher resolution. They do not allow for collaboration in the free option and they only allow for 5 active projects at a time. Additionally, alignment tools are difficult to use. However, this software is very good for making charts and graphs!

  • Adobe InDesign: This software is available to UW-Madison students, faculty, and staff via InfoLab machines, both in the labs and for checkout. Using a Creative Cloud account will allow for easy transition from one computer to another. With layers and alignment tools, this is one of the best options for creating posters if you know or have time to learn the software.

  • Adobe Illustrator: Like InDesign, this software is available to UW-Madison students, faculty, and staff via InfoLab machines, both in the labs and for checkout. Using a Creative Cloud account will allow for easy transition from one computer to another. With layers and alignment tools, this is another good alternative for creating posters if you know or have time to learn the software.

Adobe Photoshop Logo

  • Adobe Photoshop: Like InDesign and Illustrator, this software is available to UW-Madison students, faculty, and staff via InfoLab machines, both in the labs and for checkout. Using a Creative Cloud account will allow for easy transition from one computer to another. With layers and alignment tools, as well as plenty of photo editing capabilities, this is another good alternative for creating data visualizations if you know or have time to learn the software.

(See also Microsoft PowerPoint, Google Slides, and Apple Keynote under “Infographics”)

Maps

Maps are a form of data visualization that use a diagrammatic representation of an area of land or water. Maps can simply show the geographical markers (such as landmarks, roads, elevation, etc.) or be used in conjunction with a data set to geographically represent said data.

Recommended Software:

  • My Maps by GoogleThis is a free, online map making application made by Google using the base Google Maps/Google Earth. Users can add points, lines, and shapes on top of Google Maps, using a WYSIWYG editor. Maps can be saved and shared online. With limited tools, this map maker is simple and easy to use.

  • Google Earth: This free application is available with limited online functions or with a more robust desktop application. Where My Maps are 2D maps, Google Earth renders a 3D representation of Earth based on satellite imagery.

  • NatGeo MapMaker InteractiveThis free, online program allows you to pick from a series of base maps, and add built in layers, draw custom shapes, add points, and much more. This program also allows you to easily save and share your maps.

  • ArcGIS: This software is available to UW-Madison students, faculty, and staff via InfoLab machines, both in the labs and for checkout. It is one of the industry standards for map making. The system provides an infrastructure for making maps and geographic information available throughout an organization, across a community, and openly on the Web. This program has a steep learning curve is only recommended for those who are serious about map making.

  • PiktochartThis online program has a limited free option, as well as monthly and annual subscriptions at a cost. Piktochart files are created online and can be downloaded as PNG files. These files are usually lower in resolution, but making the dimensions larger will allow for downsizing with a higher resolution. This software is mostly used for poster and infographics, but there is a very limited map option, for simple color-coded maps. In the free option, there is a limit of five active projects at a time.

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Working on something different?

The above options are just a few examples of infographics and data visualization projects. Want help with something not listed here? Make an appointment with a DesignLab consultant to discuss how we can help!

Examples

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Infographics

Data Visualization

Handout: Which Type of Data do You Have? (Made by DesignLab)

Website: Information is Beautiful

Website: Flowing Data

Gallery: D3 Gallery on GitHub

Maps

Infographics & Data Visualization Icon

Software Support

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Adobe InDesign

Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Photoshop

Canva

Canva LogoFrom LinkedIn Learning:
From Canva:
From Software Training for Students:

Piktochart

Piktochart Logo
From Piktochart:
From Software Training for Students:

My Maps (Google)

From My Maps by Google:
From Software Training for Students:

Google Earth

From Google Earth:
From Software Training for Students:

NatGeo MapMaker Interactive

From NatGeo MapMaker Interactive:
From Software Training for Students:

ArcGIS

and more...

Are we missing a software that you would recommend to others? Email us at designlab@wisc.edu and we’ll do our best to add it here!