Wonder Tools | The Best Data Viz Tool
How and why to use Flourish to make impressive charts fast and for free
Flourish is a terrific tool for visualizing data. It’s easy to use and free. Unlike some complex tools aimed at data professionals, Flourish is simple enough for anyone to use. It’s also flexible and polished enough to use in professional newsroom projects. And it comes with a wide range of templates so you can create a strong interactive data visual to embed on any site within a couple of hours.
You’re reading the Wonder Tools newsletter💌. I’m Jeremy Caplan, director of the Journalism Creators Program at CUNY’s Newmark J-School. This week we opened applications for the 2nd cohort of our 100-day online-only program. It’s for independent journalists creating their own niche and local sites, newsletters, podcasts etc. Find out more here.
Here are a few examples of projects created with Flourish:
BBC Covid data tracker. (These additional mobile-friendly COVID-19 data visualizations made with Flourish are free to embed on any site).
[BTW, for an excellent newsletter and news source for COVID data, I recommend the COVID-19 Data Dispatch by Betsy Ladyzhets, a current participant in the Journalism Creators Program].
🇺🇸 US election results maps.
Sky News pre-COVID scrollytelling data story “Why 7,000 People die needlessly every day.”
Name popularity in the UK since the 1840s. A dataset of 22 million names. My name apparently peaked in the 80s👇. Check yours.
Here are a few types of data visuals you can create:
Bar Chart Race. This is great for comparing changes over time. You just need two or more entities with numbers that change over time. You can use this for a sales growth or market value comparison between companies, a head-to-head assessment of athletic performance, or analysis of COVID vaccination rates across countries.
Card Grids. These work well for carousels or grids. You can use them to highlight a group of companies, political candidates, notable artists, athletes or actors, or just about any other set of things. This is one of several uses of Flourish that’s oriented around structured content, not just data.
Photo Slider. These are handy for showing before and after images to show damage caused by a natural disaster or how a face or place changed over the decades. All you need are two photos. The default view allows the viewer to drag a slider to see image a and then b. You can alternatively choose a fader style, where the two images fade into one another as the viewer drags the slider. Or a spotlight style, where elements of image b are spotlighted when the viewer mouses over image a.
A few Flourish features I particularly like:
You can combine multiple visuals into “stories,” like this. They’re like Keynote or Powerpoint slides, but data-focused and interactive. Here’s an example.
You can make charts and graphics that are searchable, as explained here.
You can annotate data to help explain complex datasets or anomalies.
Pricing. Flourish is only free if you make your graphics public. Newsrooms doing “public-facing mainstream news journalism” can apply to use Flourish as part of a Google News Lab partnership. For individuals seeking to keep their data and visualizations private, it’s $69/month for the personal plan.
3-minute video intro to Flourish:
Other useful data viz resources:
Datawrapper is a well-designed free alternative to Flourish.
Canva has a useful collection of free, easy-to-use templates for infographics.
Piktochart and Infogram offer good multi-part infographics w/ freemium pricing.
The Charts and Infographics tool collection at Journalist’s Toolbox is great.
I’m attending Substack’s first big conference for writers this Friday, Jan 8. It’s free. Presentations & workshops w/ > 25 writers. Event overview and registration here.
If you click THIS LINK it’ll magically create a short pre-written email draft that’s ready to send to a friend to tell them about this newsletter. (Credit to Walt Hickey’s numlock.news for that technique). Your friends may appreciate the gesture, and I appreciate that word of mouth is a nice way to reach new readers.
Have another tool you like better than Flourish? Or some other input? Hit reply to reach my inbox. Thanks for reading! Have a nice weekend☀️ . - Jeremy
Funny you write about embeddable data visualization tools on Substack, which doesn’t allows interactive data viz embeddings
Hey Jeremy, Found your list through Substack On today — Walt's session? I like your style, looking forward to the next issue. Check out mine if you have a minute, I think you'll like it 😎