3 Data Visualization Tools for Students

Starting off my last semester of college I was ready for a low-stress class load full of Beer and Wine appreciation and Zumba Step.

However, one of my friends shared how excited she was to be taking a Data Visualization class, so I decided to tag along. I registered for NEW300 as part of the Digital Media 3 Pack at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. This class, taught by Dan Pacheco, is about telling stories through numbers presented through graphics that can be seen and interacted with by a viewer. Even though I am new to the #DataViz scene, I wanted to share some of the great tools I have recently been introduced to that make these professional looking visualizations simple and attainable.

Infogr.am

infogram-examples
Image from Infogr.am

Infogr.am simply allows users to create stunning infographics that can be downloaded or embedded on websites. This web base service uses the input of spreadsheets or .csv files to organize data and present it in a visually appealing manner.

This website does not require you to have any coding or graphic design knowledge, as Infogr.am takes care of the whole back-end and allows you to choose from pre-designed themes to layout your content. After cleansing and inputting all data, Infogr.am gives you the option to present this data through bar, line, or pie charts. There are also customizable templates and interactive elements such as maps and population designs to choose from.

A new feature for Infogr.am invites users to collaborate and access shared resources from their own accounts. Companies such as The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Al Jazeera and Yahoo have taken notice and are using this service for articles published worldwide. Infogr.am currently has both free and paid versions and over 1 million users who have created over 1.7 million ‘infograms’.

Google Fusion Tables

For some brands, the more products you use by them, the more benefits and added features you receive. Google Fusion Tables exemplifies this idea as it seamlessly works with Google Drive to turn columns and rows of numbers in spreadsheets into data visualizations.

You can upload simple spreadsheets or .csv files, but also you can link a Gmail account and use Google Drive as a data source for any visualizations you plan to make. If you choose to use this option, all data is saved and stored in Google Drive and automatically updated within your visualizations with any changes you make.

The basic functions of the fusion tables are:

  • Filter and summarize large amounts of data.
  • Transform data into charts, maps, network graphs, or custom layout
  • Embed or share it.

For those more interested in code, Google Fusion Tables allow you to use SQL queries to execute queries against a table.

CartoDB

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 4.34.26 PM
image from cartodb.com

CartoDB focuses specifically on taking sets of data and turning them into interactive maps. After importing data in ways similar to the other two services, you are then able to click map view. Here you can see your data displayed on any desired section of the world map. To scale down the size of your data, you can use filters or SQL Select statements. Different columns of your excel sheet can be turned on and off to be used as labels in order to provide relevant information at each of your map points.

To finish your visualization, you can customize the look and feel of the map with different basemaps, as well as size and color pinpoints. If you want to make more advanced maps, you can layer many different sets of data on top of each other. Here, you can visually see new trends and patterns emerge.

Currently, CartoDB has over 50,000 users and over 100,000 active applications. As a CartoDB user, you can maintain a free account, or choose from one of 3 payment plans.

Will you try out any of these Data Visualization tools? Share anything you make on twitter and tag @lindzsilver so I can see all your designs!

Also, check out tutorials and sample assignments from NEW300 and follow the class hashtag for interesting data finds.

Lindsey Silverman

Lindsey is currently a student at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and School of Information Studies at Syracuse University. She loves all things social media, so connect with her on Twitter: @Lindzsilver

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