Creating Unique Infographics: 35 Places to Get Free Data

Jason Miller at Content Marketing Institute wrote a piece almost a year ago in which he argued that infographics were not dead, as others had suggested; they were just getting better.

“Better” in this case means the barrier for entry, or at least capturing someone’s attention, is much higher than it was in 2012 or early 2013, let alone previous years. In short, his argument was that you can’t show up in front of your audience with a weak infographic anymore.

So, how do you make better infographics? Start with gaining an information edge by digging deeper and uncovering unique insights. This post is designed to help you do just that.

Below are 35 completely free resources that you can browse and scrape for data to create unique infographics. Go far down some of these rabbit holes, and you could turn up key insights that speak directly to your audience and hold their attention.

General Data

Creating Unique Infographics: 35 Places to Get Free Data

globalEDGE by Michigan State University

This is a fantastic search engine that crawls numerous databases. Even better, the site even labels the databases and sources it recommends. This is a good starting point if you have a topic in mind and need to know where the data for it can be found.

Gapminder.org/data

If you don’t already have a specific topic in mind, start at this page on Gapminder. You can browse topics alphabetically, and much of the data found within is already organized into spreadsheets and visuals.

Enigma.io

Enigma is one of the easiest ways to search through public databases. You have to sign up to use it, but as long as you don’t expect tens of thousands of API calls for what you’re doing, you will be fine with Enigma’s free service.

Datahub.io

Datahub is one big, free information platform created by the people at Open Knowledge, whose mission is to create enlightened societies worldwide by providing equal access to data.

#NumberOf.net

This is a fun site if you just need to know information about things that can be simply counted: Number of people in Bangladesh, number of iPhones in the world, etc. For each entry, scroll below the comments section, and there should be a reference so you can fact-check those numbers.

Data360.org

Functions as more of a news resource than a database, though Data360 does have its own datasets and will link to those wherever relevant. The same goes for data found elsewhere. The two best ways to use this site are to browse datasets by topic, or scroll through Data360’s reporting to get ideas for your own content.

GeoCommons

GeoCommons’ goal is to map any data that can be found and overlain onto a map. You have to sign up to use the site, but registration is free, and there are endless numbers of things already visualized in map form.

World-Statistics.org

World-Statistics.org is a Creative Commons-licensed statistics portal that aggregates data from all over the web and makes it easy for anyone to explore it. “Our vision is to be a place where people can find easily the information they need to understand the world,” founder Jean-Michel Durr writes.

Government Data

Governments and supernational organizations have the resources that most businesses lack to compile massive sets of data, and much of this information enters the public domain.

When doing research for worldwide issues — particularly regarding wealth, wellness, migrations or other such big-picture issues — a good starting point would be international organizations. Here are three of the best and most reliable:

The United States also has vast troves of stats and data. Here are some of the best national resources for US-specific topics:

Several American cities in particular have nice portals for local statistics, and here are four of the best:

Below are a couple of more resources that might be useful for government-related topics:

  • Global Firepower, a site that assesses and ranks 100 different countries in terms of military might, providing ample data about each; and
  • Influence Explorer, a Sunlight Foundation initiative that explores empirically how much influence individual politicians, lobbying groups and businesses have on the American system.

Sports Data

Professional sports create and compile massive amounts of data every day, as seasoned fantasy football veterans can confirm. If you need sports data, we have 6 great sites that cover the most popular professional sports in North America.

Finding Specific Data Sets

Creating Unique Infographics: 35 Places to Get Free Data

If you have the ability to crunch thousands of data points, there are huge treasures of data sets widely available for you. Keep at least a couple of the following resources up your sleeve if visualized data is a big part of your content strategy.

Quandl

Quandl is a good starting point. Use the search bar at the top of the home page to find data sets on any topic imaginable. Thinking of discussing the historical unemployment rate in Boise for the past quarter-century? Those data are available.

Academic Torrents

Torrent technology is great for things beside Game of Thrones. By distributing data sets in torrents around the web, information becomes more freely accessible and easier to move (you can’t just email 1 terabyte of research to a colleague, after all). So, if you need to access historical data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for example, you are in luck.

Google’s Data Sets Search Engine

This is really just a custom Google search, and while this step of the research phase might not give you great data, it can take you to a resource that will.

Stanford University’s collection of Amazon reviews

Stanford has 18 years of Amazon.com user reviews, through March 2013, which could yield some remarkable customer insights.

University of Maryland’s terrorism research

It’s not the most fun topic for a content marketer, but terrorism is without a doubt one of the biggest issues globally. Scroll to the bottom of this page for a pair of data sets: One on known terrorists and their social connections, and one that labels 1293 different terrorist attacks with a specific attribute that yields more than 100 distinct features of a terrorist attack.

J! Archive

Perhaps this site serves only a niche interest, but if you need to comb through decades of Final Jeopardy! answers and questions, this is the site for you.

The Million Song Dataset

This is a huge dataset of one million contemporary/pop songs, complete with lyrics and metadata. Also, let’s give these researchers from Columbia University’s Department of Electrical Engineering some credit with this project: The site’s example track description is essentially a Rickroll.

The Cat Database

Despite the solid efforts of the above researchers at Columbia, the most meme-friendly data set comes from three researchers in Hong Kong, who compiled a database of 10,000 cat images, which can be yours if you have 2 GB to spare.


images by:
Shin / Flickr
Felipe Varela / Flickr
Mark Smiciklas / Flickr

Epic Presence Team