I love finding new ways to tell stories online, but sometimes the results feel a little unpolished — especially with projects that require combining different kinds of visual elements. That’s one reason why I was so excited to discover Infogr.am, a web-based program that allows users to create simple interactive graphics and arrange them in templates with photos, video and text.
This tool is pretty close to how I imagine layout software of the future: Content is content, and it’s up to users to decide how to use it best. The templates are lovely and the logic behind them is sophisticated enough to manipulate simple datasets into something meaningful. Color pallets have never been my strength, but it seems like Infogr.am has enough options to work with pretty much any design.
Here’s a mashup I put together last week that looks at how American food prices have changed in the last 100 years. I use Google’s data search interface to find the numbers and this Creative Commons search hub to pick a photo. (The topic, by the way, was inspired by The World’s What’s for Lunch project.)
There are at least two other similar tools out there: Easel.ly and Visua.ly, although the latter is pretty locked down in its free form. This type of platform could be useful to journalists of all kinds, but I see it as a tool that would be especially powerful on social media. Awesome print graphics often lose something when they’re cropped for the web, and can look even less exciting on Facebook. Tools like Infogr.am mean social media editors can rebuild those graphics in a digitally native environment made to draw readers into the larger story.
If you’d like to test drive Infogr.am, try building a presentation that allows users to see average annual rainfall across Massachusetts. Use this spreadsheet, which is from the NOAA National Climatic Data Center. For photos and video, use the Creative Commons search hub listed above. When you’re done, paste a link to your work in the comments section below this post.