Yes, I know everyone out there is a master at Illustrator and can create any image they want in mere moments. Ha! But why re-invent the wheel?!? There are a lot of cool free and pay collections of vector elements out there for re-purposing in your own creations.
First off, there’s one of my all-time personal favorites: The Noun Project. The simplicity of symbols convey a lot of power. The noun project usually has multiple versions of any noun you an think of. Some are free, some ask that you attribute the creator, and some are royalty-free for a fee.
If you don’t mind spending just a few bucks ($3-6 on average), head over to graphicriver and do a search for “infographic” or “charts”. Sure, a lot of the packages are full of tacky design – but remember, these are just time-saving ingredients for your next masterpiece.
If you are more comfortable with Photoshop, there are also decent bitmap based templates:
Why did I save the free ones for last? Because they aren’t very good, to be honest. Most of the free templates I found include only the most basic of shapes.
Anyone have any other recommendations?
A list compiled by Brian Suda over at netmagazine.com. It’s a little heavy on java libraries – but I suppose that’s the direction visualization is heading. Still, you think basic tools like Illustrator, or BI software like Tableau would have made it in there somewhere.
FF Chartwell is an interesting tool for creating simple charts using font character sets. I’m not sure that this is really much easier than using excel or other charting software, but some people might find it more intuitive – but at $129 for the full set, it seem a bit pricey.
There’s a nice demo video at http://vimeo.com/41772735
An interactive online Hue test. It’s a little tedious to sort all the squares – but kind of challenging too. I got a 20, which apparently puts me in the top 25% or so.
Not sure what kind of chart best suits your data? Use the tabs at the top to indicate what kind of comparison you want to make.
Not much different than the original version, really.
The skilled designers over at datavisualization.ch pulled together this list of preferred applications, code libraries, and tools. Dig in! I wish I had time to learn them all. Sigh.
Sometimes you have to strangle software to get what you want. I was looking for a new way to compare world growth across analytical groups. Starting with an excel bubble chart, I noticed that sorting the values by growth rate, and sizing them by GDP value, produces a very beautiful visualization of the distribution. Looking closer, however, I noticed that excel literally draws the graph in the sorted order (lowest to highest in this case), resulting in some of the smaller balls being hidden by the larger ones:
To fix this turned out to be quite complicated, requiring some software hopping. First you have to copy and paste the chart into Powerpoint, then right-click/save-as-picture into an enhanced metafile (.emf), which you can then open in Illustrator where you can bring all the hidden balls to the front. Anyways, the end result is below. I hope the technique is useful to anyone looking to do some post-production excel chart tweaking.
A nice progression of intermediate steps in preparing a newspaper map of Santorum’s campaign, using R.
The design experts over at Duarte have released for sale a series of diagram elements, for use in creating presentations, reports, etc. The elements are well organized, letting you filter them by the type of relationship you are trying to visualize, number of nodes, and style. I have mixed feelings about these sorts of collections (Powerframeworks is another) as they are very similar to what is available for free in Powerpoint’s SmartArt graphics. And yet, whenever I browse through them, I always find something I haven’t seen before, or get inspired to mash a few designs together in a new way. If you have strong illustrator or photoshop skills, these probably won’t be of much interest to you. But if you don’t, and just need a quick diagram to drop into powerpoint with no fuss – these are a lifesaver.
Of course, the most remarkable thing about the list of datavis blogs, tools, and resources over at Daily*Tekk is that Chart Porn isn’t on it. Oh well. Can’t win them all.
As there were no actual charts at that blog, I will instead invite you to contemplate this sign:
There are lots of great new books out there about graphics and data visualization. But have you ever taken a look at some that were written back before computer software? It turns out that most of these chart and visualization methods have been around for decades – it’s just that they used to draw them by hand.
I highly recommend these books to anyone. Besides the impressive graphics and nostalgia values, the writing quality and content advice are excellent – regardless of what century you are in.
Graphic Methods for Presenting Facts, Willard Cope Brinton (1914). Brinton not only presents a variety of graph types, he goes into quite a bit of detail on the decisions that go into making a well designed chart. Note the author’s sarcastic review of the first chart below – Ha!
In 1939, Brinton released a greatly expanded version of his book, entitled Graphic Presentation, which covers an amazing breadth of graphic methods (520 pages with separate chapters for 59 different graph types!) – including these beauties:
Sections on chart elements and color choice:
Who knew they were drawing 3d curve charts in 1939?:
Next up, Calvin Schmid’s 1954 Handbook of Graphic Presentation. Schmid focused a lot on the proper use of design elements, including some draftsmanship tips. It’s amusing how many of the examples resemble charts from recent policy debates:
Others are a bit more dated:
Note: if you want to read these on your iPad (like I did), you should follow the directions at this link (the PDF files available directly from the Archive do not always display properly).
An addictive collection of beautiful charts, graphs, maps, and interactive data visualization toys -- on topics from around the world.