infographic

Tool review: infogr.am

infogram

Screenshot from infogr.am

One of my biggest goals after the Journalism Interactive conference last weekend is to try out as many online journalism and visual tools as possible. I can’t possibly try out every tool I learned about last weekend, but this week I managed to test out infogr.am for one of my classes. Infogr.am, at first look, seems to be a great solution for design-challenged journalists. The tool is designed to help create visually appealing and interactive infographics with ease. Although I have some experience using InDesign, a commonly used design program, I often struggle to execute infographics. I can never quite get infographics to look as pretty as I want.

I was excited to test out infogr.am to see if it could solve all of my design problems forever. I created the graphic (left) based on real data I found in an article from the Columbia Tribune about public housing flat rate rental prices increasing. I am pitching a more in-depth version of the topic for my Convergence Reporting class this week, so I also was hoping to find a tool to help me finish a graphic a week before my deadline!

While the tool was pretty intuitive and quick to use (I made this in 15 minutes), I did run into a number of frustrations:

CONS:

  • Embed codes (like for a Google map) can’t be put into the graphic from other sources

  • Text size can’t be easily changed

  • Limited ability to change style and color once initial theme is picked

  • Limited graphic icon options

  • Interactive aspects of the graphic not working (The timer isn’t actually counting down)

  • Restrictions on text length for certain sections

I also found some things I like:

PROS:

  • Simple interface allows drag and drop and easy editing

  • Easy to use format

  • Saves a lot of time for simple graphics

  • Easily sharable

  • No design experience necessary

Overall, I had a mixed experience with this tool. I ended up with a graphic that looks pretty nice considering it took me less than 15 minutes to make. In comparison, it probably would have taken me an hour or more at my skill level to make something similar on a program like InDesign. I also don’t know how to make charts using Illustrator, so this tool is a great option for a design dummy like me. On the other hand, I could see this tool being really frustrating for a more complicated graphic. Throughout the creation process, I found myself having to work around options the tool didn’t have. For example, I couldn’t figure out how to label parts of a pie chart the way I wanted so I opted for a text section instead. This tool is a really easy option for a simple graphic that needs to be done quickly. However, I would argue this tool is meant to be visually appealing more than it is meant to illustrate complicated numbers and data sets. Use infogr.am if you’re in a hurry and need something that will do in a short amount of time, but look to your InDesign or Illustrator guru to help you make a more meaningful graphic that explains more complicated data.

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