Free Data Viz Design Tools


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Some favorite data visualization design tools and principles that are FREE and can help you take visualizations to the next level. (Created Fall 2014)

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Free Data Viz Design Tools

  1. 1.  Excel is commonly used, accessible to most staff with a computer, and has a wide range of charts and graphs built in. See sidebar for more ideas & training resources.  Tableau Desktop & Tableau Public web-based visualization tool for creating graphs and interactive dashboards. Tableau Public is free to use, but any data you upload and use be- comes publicly available, so be cautious with program data but go wild with open data sets!  ManyEyes free, web-based chart/graph tool  R is a free, open source tool for data management, analysis, and vis- ualizations, including static and interactive charts and dashboards Bonus: Can you code? Check out d3 is a JavaScript library for manipulating documents based on data Have no fear: if your tool of choice is the ubiquitous MS Excel, you can still create beautiful visualizations. Ann Emery ( excel) has excellent short video tutorials in her for creating interesting graphs using Excel and some creative maneu- vering of data, rows, and columns. Think about how to make your Excel graph or chart sing: change fonts, color palettes, and use other formatting tricks to trick people into thinking you used a fancy viz tool. Think about your choice of chart types: avoid creating pie charts, which can be hard for the human eye to see, and con- sider horizontal bar charts instead of vertical ones, which give you more space for your axis labels and categories. AMANDA MAKULEC / John Snow Inc., ea- and offer templates and design approaches for in- fographics, if that’s the next step for your viz. and Piktochart can read your Excel data, making it easy to incorporate your graph into a larger infographic. Contact Amanda Makulec for a slidedeck overview of the various tools and their uses. Timeline JS ( allows you to create free timelines us- ing Excel or Google Docs. Tiki Toki (tiki- also creates timelines, but requires you pay for external embed and public views. Gephi. Designs simple network analysis visualizations. Here’s a really cool video, showcasing some of the program’s features. UCI- NET. It is most often used for more complicated analyses, whereas Gephi is limited to really nice basic visualiza- tion and a few typical network stats. NodeXL. Is often used by social media professionals who I know to map their reach or diffusion across different net- works. Simple and easy to use.
  2. 2. Sometimes you might want to create a visualization using second- ary data. The following sites are great resources for health- related datasets: DHS Program——Contains all DHS datasets . STATcompiler——Simple in- terface for downloading select DHS data in table s or visuali- zations. Also has a mobile app available for Apple, Android & Windows devices for on-the-go stats access! World Bank Data——includes most WHO, DHS, and UN statistics. Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) Global Health Data Exchange—http://—Includes data from all IHME research and others.—Has both state and county level HIV data. Juice Labs Chart Chooser—The tool is designed to help you choose your chart type, and to provide Excel and Powerpoint templates to make it quick and easy to create and customize charts and graphs with your own custom data. Storytelling with Data Excel Template—Cole Nauss- baumer’s terrific viz blog has a set of Excel templates to download with some of her Excel workarounds built in to make your graphs beautiful with minimal effort Colorbrewer—Provides color advice for cartography that’s applicable beyond the GIS world. Each map view provided has been carefully designed to be a di- agnostic tool for evaluating the robustness of individ- ual color schemes. Full use of this tool will benefit your map designs because colors (even very similar colors) are easy to differentiate when they appear in a nicely ordered sequence (such as a legend). Color Oracle—Free color blindness simulator for Win- dow, Mac and Linux. It takes the guesswork out of designing for color blindness by showing you in real time what people with common color vision impair- ments will see. Color-hex —Gives information about colors including color models (RGB,HSL,HSV and CMYK), Triadic colors, monochromatic colors and analogous colors calculat- ed in color page for the technically inclined. Color- also generates a simple css code for the se- lected color. Color Palette Generator —Creates color sets based off images Design-Seeds—Gives you a space to browse designer- quality color palettes If you’re looking for visualization resources, tips, tricks, and ways to connect with other visual enthusiasts, check out these great sites & communities. Data Viz Hub— —Simple blog &affiliated listserv for sharing examples, tools, resources, and questions for the community. HelpMeViz——Open commu- nity for posting Excel viz issues and allowing the communi- ty to play with your data and make suggestions for how to improve your visualizations.