University of Wisconsin–Madison

Infographics and Data Visualization

Overviews

  • 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. Infographics can be:

    • Short – conveying one piece of information or small data set
    • Long – conveying multiple pieces of information; a composite of multiple short infographics

    And convey data as:

    • Qualitative – conceptually based; communicating information characteristics or non-numerical properties
    • Quantitative – empirically based; conveying numerical data or analytics

    Infographics can also be:

    • Descriptive – i.e., informative or explanatory; subjectively provide information
    • Argumentative – i.e., persuasive; prompt the viewer to draw conclusions
    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 for as little as $1. Canva files are created online and can be downloaded as PNG, JPEG, or PDF. They do not allow for collaboration in the free option. Additionally, alignment tools are there but are very limited in functionality.

    • 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 than a typical poster, but making the dimensions larger will allow for downsizing with a higher resolution. They do not allow for collaboration in the free option. Additionally, alignment tools are there but are very limited in functionality. 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.
    In the News:
  • 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.

    • 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 for as little as $1. Canva files are created online and can be downloaded as PNG, JPEG, or PDF. They do not allow for collaboration in the free option. Additionally, alignment tools are there but are very limited in functionality.

    • 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 than a typical poster, but making the dimensions larger will allow for downsizing with a higher resolution. They do not allow for collaboration in the free option. Additionally, alignment tools are there but are very limited in functionality. 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. Users can add points, lines, and shapes as well as overlay semi-transparaent images on the map. Users can also create fly-throughs using a series of points and capturing them to create short videos.

    • 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.

Examples

Infographics and Data Visualization Icon

Software Support