So you want to make in infographic? 4 useful options


We're putting together a guide to various infographic software for our students, so I've had cause to play around with a few. I find a lot of tools recomended on the web just don't quite work for educational stuff (or, indeed, library stuff); they're just too much style and not enough substance.

Also, all the articles about infographic tools are entitled things like '61 GREAT INFOGRAPHIC PACKAGES!' which always baffles me somewhat. Maybe it's the information professional in me, but I think if you're going to write something recommending a set of tools, you should at least narrow the number down to a recommended few...

So what are the most effective tools for creating meaningful infographics?

1) Great for stats and figures: Piktochart

I really like Piktochart. It's the tool we use most often at work. My colleagues have used the templates to create infographics, for example this one has been used to explain library processes to users in a way that is engaging and easy to understand:

An example of a Piktochart template

An example of a Piktochart template

It's simple to take something like the template above and change the images (there's a huge built in library of icons, or you can use your own) and the colours etc to suit whatever you wish to express. Piktochart also has seperate templates for Reports, which are nice.

For me, though, the way it integrates very easily with your own data from Excel or Google Sheets, which you can import from a .CSV file, is the best thing about this tool. So it takes what you already have and makes it visually appealing, which helps prevent the all-style-no-substance issue that afflicts a lot of infographics.

You can import your own data

You can import your own data

Although Piktochart does infographics, reports, and some really nice data visualisation with maps, I've mostly used it to create individual charts which I've then exported for use in other things, like Action Plan documents, or presentations. In the example below, all the graphs etc and visualisations are from Piktochart, and I'm by no means an expert user so this is just scratching the surface of what it can do.

Piktochart is free, but also has reasonably priced educational packages, one of which we have at York, that allow you a few more options and some more features. 

2) Good for flexibility: Canva

Canva does a lot more besides infographics. It's really good for creating images perfectly sized for social media, and they put genuinely useful tips on their design school blog.

At York we've used Canva for creating one page guides to things like Google Scholar, or JSTOR, in order to embed them in the VLE, blogs, etc. Canva is simple to use and there are a lot of nice built in fonts and images which can make otherwise not-overly-exciting subjects a bit more engaging for users.

You can use Canva for free, which is what we do. It tries to tempt you in with paid for images and templates, but you can also import your own images so there's no requirement to pay for theirs if you don't want to.

Here's the interface and an example of a free to use template you can build on:

The Canva interface

The Canva interface

I'd recommend playing around with Canva if you've not used it, because it has so many potential applications. The trick, really, is being able to sort through the paid stuff to find the free stuff, and being able to sort through the superficial 'this is probably great if you're the web designer for an artisan baker in Portland' templates to find the 'I can actually see this working in my world' examples...

3) Good for interactivity: Infogram

Infogram is particularly good for creating graphics you want to embed online, because they can be responsive and interactive depending on what you do with them. It's basically about hovering over different bits of the graphics, but it does allow you to focus on certain parts of the data more easily than a static chart allows. See the example below:

Other pluses with Infogram include its ability to import data from a really impressive variety of sources. Downsides include the free version being fairly stripped back of features, and even the cheaper paid for version being out of financial reach for most non-profits.

4) Good for surprising you with its potential for making infographics: PowerPoint!

The much maligned PowerPoint is actually a very good tool which is often deployed spectacularly badly by its users. It's more flexible people than people realise (especially the two most recent iterations, 2013 + 2016), and that makes it surprisingly good for infographics. The main reason it's good is because you can take something - a chart or graph from excel, words written in interesting fonts, icons, images - and put it on a slide, and it just stays where you put it. Then you can layer more and more stuff on, and easily move it around - unlike Word which is a nightmare for that sort of thing, and a bit like Photoshop, but without the need for a 2 year learning curve...

The keys to making an infographic are firstly to edit your slide to the right dimensions: go into the Design tab, choose Page setup and then choose, for example, A3, Portrait. Your single slide is your infographic. Secondly, use images from somewhere like, or icons from, to make your content interesting (along side graphs and charts you can copy and paste in from Excel). Thirdly, use a non-standard font - download one from - as typography makes a huge difference.

Bonus option: for Google Analytics Infographics

If you have a website which uses Google Analytics to track statistics, but don't want to be logging in to check your stats all the time, provide a useful free service. You log in with your Google ID, give them your analytics code, and they send you a weekly infographic which tells you how you've done in all the key areas. When you have a good week it's a nice friendly blue, if you have a not-so-good week it's red for danger...

Sign up for yours at, here. Everything else does is a paid for service, but the Analytics infographics are free.

Do you have any recommendations I should add to this list? Leave me a comment below.




Library use compared with other things: a snapshot in 2015

UPDATE: June 2016.

I wrote the post below in August 2015 - I was very excited about the stats showing that, despite the overall decline, the sheer number of library visits compared very well with lots of other activities people in the UK take part in. I used a hyperbolic headline ("Visiting libraries is the most popular activity in the UK") which was designed for maximum impact, but was, in the way of headlines, lacking in nuance. It seems naive, looking back at it, and I flinch a little every time someone tweets it now, nearly a year later.

Part of the reason for this is a that the stats are a snapshot of that time - all the sources of figures, listed in towards the bottom of the post, were the most recent available at the time of writing. Most will have changed since then - including the main library use stat, which was for the 2013-14 financial year. CIPFA posted more up to date figures in December 2015.

So the principle of this I still stand by - comparing library use with other activities is a good way to reframe the story of decline in use. But OBVIOUSLY to be used in any kind of serious way in 2016 and going forward, up to date figures would be required. Also, you'll see below I wrote very specifically: " need to attribute anything (except the original data sources)."

The Society of Chief Librarians are using the figures below in some posters they brought out at the recent SCL Horizons event. They chosen not to comply with the my wish above that the original data sources be attributed and they've wilfully ignored the most recent CIPFA figures so have knowingly promoted misleading figures on the grounds that 'the stats would stand for next year'. (What? They're stats for a specifc year. They stand for that year only.)

I feel partially responsible for this because I wanted this stuff to be used and I was delighted so many people shared it when it first came out. I made it CC-0 precisely because I wanted people to take it and run with it (and because I don't 'own' the collation of a series of statistics anyhow). But I feel like the SCL were pretty remiss to reproduce this stuff for their big event (apparently there is great demand for the poster) in 2016 without acknowledging that the figures are for a specific period of time. They've said that the banner was a one off and that the poster version will be corrected and updated - I very much hope this is indeed the case.

I'm always struck by just how many people use libraries in the UK. It's a mind-bogglingly huge amount.

When we hear about the figures they're always couched in terms of reductions - CIPFA tells us about the continuing decline, noting that UK visits to public libraries in 2013-14 fell to 282 million, from 288 million the previous year. I'm not surprised it fell - we lost 49 branches and 1,000 full-time-equivalent staff in the same period.

But why do we never take the figures in isolation? 282 million visits! That's MASSIVE. And then I started wondering how that compared with other things we visit in the UK. I came up with a list of as many as I could think of, and guess what? We visit libraries more than we visit ANYTHING else. In fact, we visit libraries twice as often as we visit football matches, theatres, A&E and the Church combined.

I mean come on!

So inspired by some utter drivel from the Telegraph about a new Government initiative about libraries (more on which another time), I've come up with some different ways of expressing the comparisons between how often we visit libraries versus other things we visit.

Everything below has no licence attached to it so please use it however you wish - tweet it, blog it, embed it, remix it, change it, and no need to attribute anything (except the original data sources). I just want this message to go as far and wide as possible.

Library usage stats broken down into smaller timeframes

I'd be really keen for people to make their own versions of these - I'm sure we can do better than what I've come up with below. This is the perfect size to tweet as it won't need expanding to be viewed on Twitter.

I really like this version from @bookmarkpeople, too:

Here are all the subdivisions if anyone's feeling creative with comparisons:

  • 282 million library visits per year
  • 23.5 million library visits each month
  • 5.423 million library visits per week
  • 772,602 library visits per day
  • 32,191 library visits per hour
  • 536 library visits per minute
  • 8.9 library visits per second. For every second! Of the entire year! I mean seriously, how the hell can people claim we don't need libraries any more?

Library usage stats on Sway

Here's the first version of the stats. It's done using Sway, a new tool from Microsoft. Direct link to the presentation here.

Clicking the button above will allow you to tweet a link to that Sway presentation. I also did a vertical scrolling Sway in a slightly different style - take your pick! Both Sways allow duplication, so if you want to take them as a starting point to make your own version, feel free - improve and enhance it.

Library usage stats on Slideshare

A slightly different approach for this one - a teaser format where the most popular activity isn't revealed until the very end. Here's a link direct to the slides.

The slides were Featured on Slideshare's homepage and also tweeted by the CEO of the Arts Council, so hopefully we're getting beyond the echo-chamber!

Library usage stats on video

Here's a YouTube video - the same statistics as in the slides, but this time made in PowToon.

Library usage stats: the raw figures

Here are all the raw figures I collected - if you take these and do something interesting with them, let me know in a comment and I'll add whatever it is to this list!

230 million library visits in England (282 million in UK):

Cinemas: 165.5 million admissions:

Church of England: 52 million visits:

The UK itself: 32.8 million visits from overseas in 2013:

Theatre: 22 million attendees in 2013:

Hospital A&E Departments: 18.5 million visits

Premier League Football: 13.9 million total attendance

There used to be Museums and Galleries figures here, but they turned out to be just for DCMS owned insitutions so I've removed them - thanks to Ian Clark for the heads-up.

Library usage stats: as a Google doc

And finally, if you want to do stuff with the data it may be useful to have it in a spreadsheet: here's a Google doc. It's set to 'anyone can view' - if you want to edit or add to the data etc just make your own copy.

What other people are doing with the stats

The first remix has arrived! Really pleased that Adlib has redone the graphic at the top of this page but for Canadian libraries.

I hope others will be encouraged to take this basic idea and run with it - either by finding new ways to express the information, or finding new information, or redoing some of these resources for different parts of the world...

Spread these messages however you want, as far as you can. And keep the statistics to hand - every time someone says 'we don't need libraries in the digital age' we can respond 'actually 772,000 people in the UK will need them today alone!' and all the rest of it.

Let's do this!

A handy guide for when to save images as JPEGs, PNGs or GIFs


Thanks to David Green for flagging up this infographic on Twitter - I found it useful because I tend to use a mixture of JPEG and PNG with saving images, with not much understanding of why I'm choosing what I'm choosing...

JPEGs reduce the size of an image by compressing it - making the image less detailed and so the file-size smaller, but effectively doing so in a way which the human notices least. This is important for web-use as everything each viewer of your website has to download - which is to say, have appear on their screen, rather than save to their computer - takes up bandwidth, and bandwidth costs money. One of the reasons I switched over to Squarespace from is the unlimited bandwidth meaning I don't have to worry about upgrading my package to accommodate more.

PNG files can be transparent - they don't have to have a white (or black, or any other colour) background. This is truly useful because they can 'sit' on top of any background - so for organisatinal logos for example, it's essential to be able to drop them in over any kind of poster or slides or publicity materials, without an ugly white background delineating the logo from the rest of the content. PNG files generally take up more space than JPEGs but keep their quality better by not compressing the file in a lossy way. This is useful for something like uploading an image to Twitter; Twitter compresses the image, so an already compressed image can start to look really quite rough by the time it a Twitter user sees it.

GIFs I use a lot but never really have cause to make. They generally take up the least space and work better for created graphics rather than photographs.

After the recent posts on which format to choose when saving presentations, and which sizes to use when saving social media images, it seems only right to complete the set with one on how to save pictures too! So courtesy of, here we are: