Visualizing Data

Visualizing Data

When I was in the Army, there was a surprising amount of focus on the presentation of the intelligence we gathered. In the beginning, I was frustrated. I was young and could not imagine why it mattered so much that our presentation to the higher-ups had to be as clear and simplified as possible. It seemed like a waste of valuable time. I remained skeptical until I started comparing our work to that of some of the other units. It became blatantly obvious how well-manicured presentation of information can help inform the reader quickly and effectively. Since then, I fell in love with the process of synthesizing information into presentable formats.

Early infographic I made on censorship.

In my current job, that has translated into learning to use Tableau Public. It is free. It is flexible. And it is powerful. It allows you to visualize data by dragging certain elements into the worksheet. The best part of Tableau is the video tutorial library. The community is helpful, but when you are starting out, the tutorials are priceless for understanding how to take advantage of Tableau flexibility.

Tableau Training
Tableau’s video training site

The HUGE limitation is the lack of private storage options. If you use the free versions, your choices are to start from scratch later or save information publically to cloud community. If privacy is an issue for you, you can take the hard road, make graphics and clip the images for use in different apps. You won’t be able to manipulate the graphic later, but once you get used to using the program, retracing your steps will often not be terrible.

A quick snapshot of Vengage’s infographic templates

Another interesting option for pumped-up visuals is Vengage. It is not as powerful as Tableau, but it has infographic templates to model yours after and myriad options for visuals. The free version maxes out at 5 infographics. Depending on your needs, that may be enough. Often, because of my desire to tinker and limited budget, I often find myself bouncing between programs I have access to in order to take advantage of each ones particular strength (e.g., Publisher’s set to transparent feature, Powerpoint’s fill a shape with image options, or Canva’s free elements). It can be a bit taxing, but it can create great results.

I’ve gotten better at creating visuals that tell a story, but it takes a good deal of practice. I’ve learned the most by keeping an eye out for impressive visuals and analyzing their components. Hopefully, these tools can help you tell a story you need to tell.





Let’s talk about infographics!  Infographics are great way to get a message across with visual interest.  I especially like to use infographics when I teach library instruction classes.  I find that if I can give my students handouts highlighting the key points of our discussion, they pay more attention and are more interactive throughout the class.  I suspect this is because they aren’t frantically trying to write down everything I say.  I’ve also learned that it’s important how the information is presented.  When I first began teaching instruction classes, I gave my students WAY too much information.  Trust me, they aren’t going to read a packet full of library information.  They might even leave it sitting on the table when they leave.  (Ouch!)   However, they will almost always take a cool infographic with them.

If you’ve read my past posts, you probably know I’m a huge fan of Canva.  Canva is my “go to” when it comes to anything graphic design related.  It’s easy for me, a non-designer, to create a great looking graphic with this program.  Simply choose the infographic template option and start designing.

I’ll mention a couple more options for you if you’re ready to create your first infographic: Piktochart and Venngage.  Piktochart is specifically made for the design of infographics, meaning you can get a little more sophisticated with your layout than with Canva.  You can sign up for free and accomplish just about anything you’d like in a graphic.  Their support and tutorials are fantastic, and I can’t really tell you anything they haven’t already covered.  I suggest you just jump right in and get your feet wet.  Here’s a quick overview of their product.  Once you start playing around, you’ll notice the layout is very similar to Canva. Continue reading “Infographics”