Tools for creating infographics

I often get asked what tools to use for creating infographics. Online tools claiming to do this do exist. However in reality they are best for creating just charts and maps, not infographics. And by and large they do this well.

I have to hold up my hand immediately to say I don’t actually use any of these (with the exception of Datawrapper that I found to be great). Being an infographic designer I have enough knowledge of charts, maps and infographics to be able to use less specialist but more versatile (and much more expensive) graphic design software. But from anecdotal evidence these are the ones I would say have emerged ahead of others.

logos of datawrapper, tableau, cartoDB, infogr.am and canva

For clean, simple, embeddable, responsive charts Datawrapper is good. Infogram lets you inject a bit more ‘infographic’ personality into charts, also with the capacity to layout type and icons too. For more complex datavis solutions Tableau is the tool of choice. And for straight graphic design Canva is pretty versatile. Tableau and Datawrapper also allow the mapping of data. CartoDB is a more advanced mapping tool.

Advantages of all them are that you can embed the map or chart in your site, the content is dynamic, and they all come with active communities who will help you through any teething problems creating an easy environment to learn in. They all have tiered pricing options.

But my advice for any of them is to be clear in your mind about why you want your map or chart before you start. If you’re not, you’ll end up doing what the tool is capable of, not what you wanted.

And if you’re after something beyond a map or chart it remains my opinion that for a successful infographic you need to concentrate on writing a good brief and then work with a specialist designer to produce it. By definition every infographic is born out of a unique combination of parameters – subject matter, material, audience, platform, deadline, resources – such that they’re never the same twice. I don’t believe you can write a formula to cater for all the possible outcomes.

Some of the online ‘infographic’ tools will try to lure you in. Suffice to say you are likely to fall victim of style over substance. While they offer plenty of opportunity to decorate bullet points, there’s very little scope for getting meaning into the visuals. Buying in design expertise to make these ones work will be money well invested.

[Clarification: These tools are the ones that (a) I could fit into a 140 character list, (b) are fairly easy to pick up and run with and (c) answer the question when it has come from people who work in a field that hasn’t previously published any/many infographics, maps or charts. There are of course many, many, many other tools out there to choose from, best captured by VisualisingData’s comprehensive and generally fabulous resources pages]