DIY Infographics for Business Students

Would you like to turn this  . . .

Source: “Fall 2011 Product/Health & Beauty Aids” MRI+ Mediamark Internet Reporter database 2011, http://www.mriplus.com/

 

  . . . . into this?

This some of the same data made visual using Infogr.am.

Video of making an infographic with Infogr.am

Back in September 2012, I wrote about the ready-made infographics that can be found in library databases like Mintel.  Since the time I posted that blog entry, both Hoovers and Business Insights Essentials have added some nice new data visualizations and interactives to their services. Clearly, the database companies that serve industry are getting the message that effective visual communication is highly important in today’s business environment.

But while many industry and market research databases are adding visuals (or at least making graphics easier to locate), business researchers are still more likely to encounter statistics and demographics in the form of raw data.  That’s why, if you’re a business major trying to give this information full impact in a presentation, you might be interested in some of the free DIY infographic and data visualization tools that are available on the web.  Here are some of my personal favorites:

  • Infogr.am - Very easy to use and very clear navigation.
  • Visual.ly - Also easy to use, if you can figure out what to click on to begin the process.  The folks at Visual.ly have created a navigation that leads you back to their fee-based services, unless you know where to click.  After logging in don’t click “Create.”  Instead click “Marketplace” and then click the pink “Start Project” button on the upper right  Visual.ly has changed considerably since my posting.  It is now mainly a commercial site connecting designers with clients.  There are a few “instant” infograhic tools left, which are easiest to get to if you use the following address: http://create.visual.ly/   You might want to use Piktochart or Easel.ly as an alternative
  • Many Eyes – A little more finicky than the others, but worth it.  Many Eyes from IBM allows you to create interactive data visualizations as well as textual analysis charts.  It also includes a lot of useful information about what types of charts or graphs to use for various purposes.
  • Piktochart - A much richer selection of options than is offered for free from Infogr.am and Visua.ly.  Includes graphics and templates that are useful for expressing qualitative information.

These services make it relatively easy to create informative and compelling visualizations of both numeric and non-numeric information.  All of them allow for uploading data sets for the creation of charts and images for use as illustrations.  Many Eyes also allows for the upload of text for the creation of Word Clouds, Word Trees and other interactive visualizations.  Also of note are Wordle, Google Charts and the more complex Google Fusion Tables (which is still in beta).

Like anything DIY and free on the web, these infographic tools are no match for the services offered by skilled graphic or communication designers.  Even though these online services can produce something eye-catching rather quickly, using them well still takes time and some basic visual literacy.

If you need evidence of the rising interest in visual literacy and visual communication in the business world, a quick search of Business Source Complete will bring back a wide assortment of articles advocating visual thinking and visual language curricula for students in business programs. I thought I would include a link to a recent article from the Global Journal of Business Research as an example.

Siu-Kay, Pun. “Visual Language Skills – Do Business Students Need Them.” Global Journal Of Business Research (GJBR) 4.2 (2010): 85-96. Business Source Complete. Web. 5 Apr. 2013.

 

 

 

 

An idea

Every year at about this time, the FIT Media Design Club holds an exhibition of their works at the Museum at FIT.  Last year it was entitled Death 2 Pie Charts and featured some truly stunning  information graphics.  This year’s kinetic  4th Dimension exhibit, currently on display, is equally as impressive.

Digital Junkie – Information Overload

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When attending these exhibits, I always am struck by the sheer amount of talent, skill and work ethic our design students possess. Being a librarian, however, I am also always curious to know more about the research that went into the project and the sources of the data that are being illustrated.  Like most people, I have a great deal of admiration for those who can transform dry numbers into compelling arguments and narratives, especially when the medium is visual.  I think revealing the data sources would only enhance the exhibit and would more genuinely reflect the real world situations faced by those in the communication design industries.

Shortly after viewing the Death 2 Pie Charts show last year, I stumbled upon a YouTube video about a program that brings together visual communicators and data producers – with beautiful results.  Visual Rhetoric is a collaborative endeavor between two separate educational institutions with ostensibly disparate missions:  the London School of Economics and the London College of Communication.  Essentially, graduate students in the social sciences from LSE pitch their research projects to graduate students from LCC, who then create presentations “as visually striking as they are epistemically credible”

Visual Rhetoric

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It seems to me that a similar interdisciplinary initiative could take place here at FIT.  We are business school as well as a design school, after all.  Right now “Big Data” is king in the fashion merchandising world.  The capstone projects of our Global Fashion Management students are rich with statistics and demographic figures.  And our Home Products undergraduate senior presentations require in-depth exploration niche markets and trends. So while it might not all be original data that is being collected by FIT students and faculty, as is the case with the Visual Rhetoric project, there are local data sets that could be worked with by Communication Design, Graphic Design, Advertising Design, or Illustration students.

Just an idea.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that I know how we would pull it off.  But I would love to be involved if we ever do!  In the meantime, kudos to the members of the Media Design Club and Prof. C. J. Yeh for all their good work.

Ready-made Infographics

Ubiquitous Infographics

It seems as if infographics are everywhere now. Increasingly, the visual presentation of data is borrowing heavily from the fields of graphic art, advertising design and even cartography in an attempt to have maximum impact on the viewer, as well as to map complex relationships between data sets. Infographics are so ubiquitous and popular now that there are even infographics on infographics – below is one of my favorites and here is a link to more.

One of the implications of the current popularity of infographics is that they have become a standard and expected part of any business or marketing presentation.  The problem is that not everyone has the ability or the resources to create his or her own infographics.  And that’s were the library comes into the picture.   At the FIT Library, we always try to subscribe to the sorts of services that are actually used in industry, and it just so happens that one of our marketing databases provides users with ready-made infographics. How cool is that?

Mintel – Infographic Overviews

Mintel is a highly regarded market intelligence service that we have subscribed to for a number of years. Recently, Mintel has added infographics to both their product and market segmentation reports.

If a report has an infographic associated with it, it can be found directly under opening summary paragraph of the report and is usually the third PDF document presented for download.

Mintel’s infographics are eye-catching and colorful (if a bit formulaic) and will definitely make any presentation shine.

In the coming weeks I will be featuring other business and marketing databases that offer data visualizations.  In particular, I have an article in works that explores Passport GMID‘s visual resources, including their Datagraphics, which usually take the form of maps and interactive Visual Apps on industries and consumer attitudes.

Also in the works will be articles about free online tools for DIY infographics created from raw data.