Library Tips: Infographics

Posted by Carolyn Caffrey Gardner

What is an infographic? Simply put an infographic is "a visual image such as a chart or diagram used to represent information or data in an easily understandable form" - Oxford English Dictionary. These simple visualizations have probably popped up in your social media accounts, and tell compelling stories on everything from what type of cheese to pair with wine to serious legislative issues like gun ownership. Our favorite is an infographic on library science degrees and career outlook created by our very own MMLIS program at USC, shown in part here. This post will help you get started in understanding best practices for creating infographics, using library resources to visualize and find data, plus some tools to create your own infographics.

For inspiration and examples, Nate Silver's ebook, Best American Infographics of 2014 is a great compilation to start with. As you become inspired, find more information on the theory behind complex data visualizations in Katy Börner's ebook Visual Insights: A Practical Guide to Making Sense of Data, Meirelles' Design for Information: An Introduction to the Histories, Theories, and Best Practices Behind Effective Information Visualizations, and Cool Infographic: Effective Communication with Data Visualization and Design. In designing your own infographic, it's important to remember that form follows function and you may need to simplify your story in order to have the most compelling visual story.

Some key library resources for creating visualizations and finding data include:

  • PolicyMap --- Interactive maps, charts, and graphs for over 30k data points on demographics, socio-economics, health statistics, employment and more.
  • Social Explorer --- Allows you to visually display demographic information from the Census and other sources as maps, charts, etc. for download
  • ProQuest Statistical Abstracts of the World --- Keyword searchable statistics to help you find data and statistics for creating your own infographics with quantitative data
  • Data Research Guide --- This research guide put together by our Social Sciences Data Librarian, Katharin Peter, covers more data and statistics resources

Whether you're using existing data that you've discovered, or your own data, there are many quick and easy tools online to help you create your own infographics without a design background. All of the services below are free with some having a paid subscription option for more features.

Tool In 10 words or less...
Canva Drag and drop graphic design for infographics or presentations
Piktochart Infographic creator with templates and drag and drop flexibility
Info.gram 30+ chart types available, best for data rich designs
Easel.ly Best for qualitative data and you can upload images

Finally, as you embark on your infographic journey, remember the best infographics always point readers back to the original data source with some sort of citation or link.

Have questions? As always, feel free to ask a librarian. For more Library Tips check out our post archives.