Part 6: The essential collection of visualisation resources


This is the sixth part of a multi-part series designed to share with readers an inspiring collection of the most important, effective, useful and practical data visualisation resources. The series will cover visualisation tools, resources for sourcing and handling data, online learning tutorials, visualisation blogs, visualisation books and academic papers. Your feedback is most welcome to help capture any additions or revisions so that this collection can live up to its claim as the essential list of resources.


The Essential Visualisation Tools VI

This sixth part presents the data visualisation tools associated with putting the finishing touches to designs, preparing them for presentation and publishing them for widespread access.

Please note, I may not have personally used all tools presented but have seen sufficient evidence of their value from other sources. Also, to avoid re-inventing the wheel, descriptive text may have been reproduced from the native websites for some resources.


Adobe Illustrator

Like much of the Creative Suite software, Adobe Illustrator is the industry standard application for creating incredible electronic illustrations. Whilst most of us think of creating graphs using statistical software, like many of those listed above, its huge depth of features and capabilities make it the ideal accompaniment tool to take the graphic composition to the next level. Illustrator gives you the complete control you require to polish existing graphs, creating new ones or combine separate elements into an inspiring, customised and hand-crafted infographic design.

Find out more information | Cost: Trial > £375 /$599 per license | Tags: Illustration, Graphics, Graphing

Examples and references: Information is Beautiful | Flowing Data

Status: Ongoing (July 7, 2011)



For those unable to find the budget for the latest version of Illustrator, Inkscape is an outstanding alternative. It is an Open Source vector graphics editor, with capabilities similar to Illustrator, CorelDraw, or Xara X, using the W3C standard Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) file format. The ongoing progression of Inkscape’s advanced features, streamlined interface and its thriving user and developer community makes it a perfect companion tool.

Find out more information | Cost: Free | Tags: Illustration, Graphics

Examples and references: Showcase | Screenshot Gallery

Status: Ongoing (July 7, 2011)


Adobe After Effects

Building on the mention of Adobe Flash, Adobe After Effects is an immensely powerful software package which takes further the capability to create amazing motion graphics and broadcast quality visual effects. Often referred to as the ‘Photoshop for video’, After Effects operates primarily with images or video content, offering the opportunity to apply and layer sound, graphics, special effects and motion. A simple way to understand the key difference between Flash and After Effects lies with the focus on Flash being web-based interactivity and After Effects being video rendered graphic effects. From a visualisation perspective the most important application of After Effects is through the power of storytelling, many of the infographic explanatory videos you will see are built using AE.

Find out more information | Cost: Trial > £600/$999 per license | Tags: Visual Effects, Multimedia, Video

Examples and references: After Effects Portal | Aaron Koblin Flight Patterns

Status: Ongoing (July 7, 2011)


Microsoft PowerPoint

Microsoft PowerPoint is one of the most divisive software applications, ever. It is the most popular presentation design tool, part of the Microsoft Office suite of the applications. Stirring strong emotions from both sides of the fence it is seen as a corruptor of communication practice, on one hand, and a powerfully accessible presentation on the other. The heat of the argument, however, is rather misdirected. Whilst there are many defaults and options within PowerPoint (as with any Microsoft product) that enable ineffective practice, the issue of and responsibility for poor presentation design residese solely with the designer themselves. This is a great, affordable and widely available package that can help bring alive the power of story telling, visualisation and analysis through dynamic presentation.

Find out more information | Cost: Trial > under £100/$150 per license | Tags: Presentations, Graphics, Office

Good examples and references: Miscrosoft Training and Support | Note and Point Gallery | Presentation Zen | Duarte Presentation Design

Status: Ongoing (July 7, 2011)



Apple’s Keynote (part of the iWork suite) provides users with easy-to-use tools and dazzling effects to create powerful presentations. Similar in scope to PowerPoint, once again the emphasis on effective design is entirely relevent to Keynote. The video below shows it in action, as the software tool behind the famous presentation slides used by Al Gore in the Inconvenient Truth.

Find out more information | Cost: Trial > £72/$100 per license (for iWork) | Tags: Presentations, Graphics, iWork

Good examples and references: EXAMPLE1 | Note and Point Gallery | Presentation Zen | Duarte Presentation Design

Status: Ongoing (July 7, 2011)



In contrast to the tools presented above, Prezi provides an alternative approach. Presentations have not evolved much in the 50 years since the slide was invented, but Prezi claim to be changing that. Prezi enables you to create and save zoomable and explorable presentations. These presentations can be designed to create the effect of animated transitions as you design the flow of a story round a single ‘art board’. The resulting works are hosted online and can be embedded into any website. Prezi Desktop is also available to enable offline design and locally stored work.

Find out more information | Cost: Free > $59 per year > $159 per year | Tags: Presentation, Transitions, Publishing, Gallery

Good examples and references: Gallery | Tutorials | Example: The Guardian’s New World Map

Status: Ongoing (July 7, 2011)

ClosR is a simple way to quick publish, display, share and embed designed images or graphics online. It is especially useful for those works that are large in size as ClosR provides a simple zoomable platform to let users explore your images.

Find out more information | Cost: Free | Tags: Publishing, Images, Documents

Good examples and references: Help | Blog | Example: Protests and the Media

Status: Ongoing (July 7, 2011)

Just like, is another exceptionally simple and useful free service for viewing and sharing high-resolution imagery. They also provide a web API for programmatic access to, exposing underlying deep zoom image and surrounding metadata, which you can use to power your own apps and experiences.

Find out more information | Cost: Free | Tags: Publishing, Images, Documents, API

Good examples and references: FAQ | API

Status: Ongoing (July 7, 2011)


Notable others…

SlideShare | SlideShare is the world’s largest community for sharing presentations and the best way to share presentations, documents and professional videos.

Adobe Kuler | Kuler is the web-hosted application for generating color themes that can inspire any project. With Kuler you can experiment quickly with color variations and browse thousands of themes from the Kuler community.

Wikimedia Commons | Wikimedia Commons is a media file repository making available public domain and freely-licensed educational media content, such as images, sound and video clips, to everyone, in their own language.

Maya | Autodesk Maya 3D animation software delivers an end-to-end creative workflow with comprehensive tools for animation, modeling, simulation, visual effects, rendering, matchmoving, and compositing on a highly extensible production platform.

Scribd | Scribd is the world’s largest social reading and publishing company, which makes it easy to share and discover entertaining, informative and original written content across the web and mobile devices.


That completes the sixth part of this collection of essential visualisation tools. Please leave any comments or feedback any suggestions you have to add to this collection or to enhance the detail presented above.