Tools for creating simple infographics and data visualizations
Piktochart is a web-based tool that has six decent free themes (and a whole bunch more for the paid version) for creating simple visualizations. You can drag and drop different shapes and images, and there is quite a bit of customization available. You can also add simple line, bar, and pie charts using data from CSV (or manual entry). You can export to PNG and JPG in either print or web quality. Note that with the free version, you get a small Piktochart watermark on the bottom of the PNG / JPG downloads.
Infogr.am is another free, web-based tool with some really nice themes and a great interface for creating simple infographics. This option also allows you to create charts using real data. There are 31 chart options that offer some really cool displays, like a radial bar graph, scatter charts, bubble graphs, and map charts. You can also add your own images and video. When you’re done creating your infographic, you can embed it on a website and publish it to the infogra.am site (I wasn’t able to find a way to download). This app is also in beta, but again, seemed pretty solid to me.
Visual.ly (I know, these visualization tools love their ‘.ly’s!) has some simple free tools worth mentioning, many of which integrate with social networks to analyze Twitter and Facebook data. You can create fun Venn diagrams, Twitter account show-downs, visuals that analyze hash tags, and a few others, but there’s almost no customization available. However, they offer a marketplace where you can get connected with visual designers and motion graphics artists who specialize in infographics. The site itself also has a ton ofgreat info graphics to inspire you or your designers. There is some serious data visualization eye candy in there, people.
Tableau has some free tools for creating data visualizations. It is not web based, so you have to download the software. Once you do, you can upload a spreadsheet or CSV and create a variety of interactive data visualizations types, including heat maps showing density of an activity by location, Venn diagrams to show associations, bar charts, line graphs, and others. This tool is for Windows only. See Tableau’s gallery for examples of the types of visualizations you can create or learn more about how it works.
Tools for diagraming and wireframing
This is a desktop application that I use all the time at work. The interface is very intuitive, and it’s quite an effective tool for wireframing in detail. You can customize and stylize objects to the extent that you can use the tool to create whole infographics exactly as you want them using this tool (it’s difficult to do data visualizations with actual data, though). There are tons of free downloadable stencils which make it super easy to diagram mobile and web interfaces, architecture diagrams, and even office/home layouts. This tool has its cons, though; it’s not the cheapest tool at $99 for standard and $199 for the pro version, and it’s offered for Mac only.
This is another nice wireframing tool good for creating simple diagrams of web and mobile interfaces. It’s $79 for the desktop version, but there’s also a free web demo which is sufficient for simple diagramming.
Other tools for visual communication
8. Make a video
The RSA Animate series (illustrations done by CognitiveMedia) is a really good example of using visual communication to accompany a verbal explanation of something. You can hire an illustration artist to do something like this, or do it up yourself Whiteboard Friday-style and draw on a whiteboard while you explain your topic (this works great in internal meetings too; try it next time you’re trying to explain a concept to someone and see how it goes). If you hire an illustration artist, deliver the verbal script that they’ll need to animate to and add points where you can see visuals supporting the topics, but give them freedom to explore creative ways to visualize, too.
TimelineJS uses a google spreadsheet with links to YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, Sound Cloud, and other media sources to create really nice-looking timelines. You could use this tool to create an interactive visualization of the starting of your company, your client’s company, tell the story of an industry, etc.
Present.me allows you to create presentations where you record yourself talking next to the slidesyou’re presenting. This tool might be a good way for people working remotely to share a proposal or concept, or for documenting presentations you’ve given on your blog or site.