4 Uncommon Design Tools for Infographics Work
Infographics are an increasingly popular form of sharing information. The mechanics of crafting an infographic have historically been a bit complex, requiring that you need certain software and design skills.
Lately, though, some “new kids on the block” offer some interesting and simplified ways of making and sharing infographics. Working with these tools can be a good way to practice some of your developing skills as an infographic designer.
Online, you can find a few free sites to help you create nice-looking graphics without buying and navigating graphics software — and without too big of a time commitment. Besides Adobe Creative Cloud (Photoshop and Illustrator), here are some tools that you should check out.
What makes a graphic good is the content — not the decoration. You can use the best icon, font, and color choice these websites can offer, but if you don’t have good content as a base, your graphic runs the risk of becoming just another piece of visual static.
If you’re truly just starting out, or if you want to create a simple graphic without buying a new software package, you can make basic infographics with two Microsoft programs, which you may already have on your computer:
PowerPoint: Think about it: PowerPoint presentations are often filled with statistics, facts, and dense data, so using PowerPoint to create an infographic is a natural match.
Various sources have published free templates for making infographics in PowerPoint, so check out these options to add visual interest to your PowerPoint session.
Publisher: This desktop publishing program is pretty easy and intuitive, and you find templates for that, too.
Infogr.am, which touts itself as “the world’s simplest application for making infographics,” is an online graphics creation and sharing site. You can share the graphics by sending them directly to Facebook and Twitter, or copy the embed code to paste the graphic into your website. The graphics are clean and legible, the colors are editable, and there are several design themes to choose from.
After you register and log onto the site, you’ll find the interface extremely easy to navigate. All you need to do is select the Infographic tab or the Charts tab, pick your design theme, and get started.
The instructions are really straightforward. For example, following such simple directions as Double-click to edit chart leads you to placeholder text fields for your headline and description text, so just start filling in the fields. (See the figure.) You can customize by adding or deleting elements to suit your needs.
In the Infographic design area, you’ll see a few icons on the right that allow you to add pictures, text, maps, charts, and even video.
The Charts section features 14 main chart types, most of which come with subtypes or variations. Click Add Chart and you get the same editing features as are found in the Infographic field.
Although you might like a lot of things about Infogr.am, keep in mind the fact that your content is public. Anything you upload is visible and shareable by anyone.
Upgrading to the subscription Pro level for $18 per month allows you to share graphics privately, which you probably want if you’re creating proprietary graphics for a client. The Pro level also allows you to download your graphics in editable formats, such as PDF.
Easel.ly is another free graphics-creation site. The site is still in beta, but it works pretty well. Easel.ly has an upload function that lets you load images from your desktop, so you could work in another program and upload a static chart to your layout if you needed a chart.
To get started, you first need to register. Then simply log in and get to work.
The interface is straightforward. All the elements you need to work are along the top. The Vhemes (Easel.ly’s contraction of the term “Visual Themes”) tab gives you some templates to work with.
Choose your elements, including background color, some useful shapes, and text from the menus along the top. Adding them to your graphics is as easy as dragging them onto your canvas. The size of the canvas is determined under the same menu as background color.
Many fonts are available as well as a variety of objects that you can drag into your composition. Objects, grouped into broad general categories such as People and Transportation, are pre-made drawings and icons. You can drag the images into your graphic and then edit the color and opacity to suit your design.
The Upload feature lets you upload your own JPG and SVG formats. For uploaded SVG files, you can edit the colors and opacity the same way as you can edit Easel.ly’s content.
Edit the text, save your graphic, and then click Share to download a JPG of your graphic, view it in a browser, copy the web link, or get the embed code and post it on your own site. Unlike Infogr.am, Easel.ly lets you set the graphic settings to public or private without an extra charge.
An interesting feature of Easel.ly is that you can open, edit, save, and post other people’s graphics — which is perhaps a point to consider before you set your own beautiful creation to “public.”
Creative Market is kind of like a version of Etsy for digital products. Individual designers post products, manage their own content, and set their own prices.
You can browse for graphics (vector illustrations, 3D, patterns, and so on) to use in your designs, or you can buy templates for everything from business cards and resumes to presentations and responsive web designs. Other products include fonts, themes, and add-ons that include custom designed Photoshop brushes, actions, and effects.
The products are searchable in a couple of different ways, so you can view by type or just pop in to see what’s recent. The site makes it easy to pay by PayPal, but the process involves buying credits in various increments.
For example, you may have found the most perfect $4 icon set, but the smallest increment of credits that you can buy is $20. (This probably won’t be a problem for you for long, though, because there’s usually a nice variety of things for sale.)