Visualising Data 2.0 launching 1st September

This is going to be the very last post on this version of the site.

After a few months of hard work thinking, developing and content-preparing with my trusted Lieutenants I am reasonably confident that I will be launching the new version of on Monday 1st September, a time of the year I always associate with new beginnings.

I will be posting a launch article to explain all the ideas behind the new site once it is out in the wild but the basic motivation has been to move this site beyond the off-the-shelf Word Press look and functionality to something much more professional, more dynamic and, most of all, more useful. Gone will be the days of endless vertical scrolling, for example.

Hopefully there will be as few niggles as possible in the transition from this to that. Inevitably there will be something but we’ll just react and respond as quick as possible to anything that occurs. All existing URLs and the RSS feed will remain unchanged but let me know if you experience any problems.

Until 1st September I will bid you a temporary digital farewell and look forward to seeing you on the other side. Thank you, as ever, for your continued support and interest in this site, it is always appreciated and never taken for granted.

10 significant visualisation developments: January to June 2014

To mark the milestone of each mid-year and end of year I try to take a reflective glance over the previous 6 months period in the data visualisation field and compile a collection of some of the most significant developments. These are the main projects, events, new sites, trends, personalities and general observations that have struck me as being important to help further the development of this field.

At the end of December I published a collection for the last 6 months of 2013 and now I’d like to reflect on the opening 6 months of 2014. I look forward to hearing from you with suggestions for the developments you believe have been most significant.

And so, as ever, in no particular order…


1. The Reshaped Economy in 255 charts


How the Recession Reshaped the Economy, in 255 Charts‘ is sharing the ‘pièce de résistance de 2014′ prize so far and probably stands up well against anything else produced in recent memory. It is a modern masterpiece, supremely conceived and executed interactive graphic produced by Jeremy Ashkanas and Alicia Parlapiano for TheUpshot (more later), showing how job numbers have fared across 255 different industries in the past 10 years. Pigeonholing it is hard: it is a small-multiple-scatterplotted area charts extravaganza. Some of the tool-tip interactivity detail is extraordinary, which kind of makes the single complaint – that of the colour scale failing on the red-green issue – a slightly surprising oversight, albeit the position and direction of the charts provides the main encoding.


2. Visualising MBTA Data


As I stress above, there is no significance to the ordering of the items in the list (which actually goes against everything I teach, but we’re all human). This next work – Visualizing MBTA Data – is at number 2 but has to be mentioned in the same breath as above project. This beautifully crafted exploration of Boston’s subway system by Mike Barry and Brian Card must share the acclaim with the ’255 charts’ project. It is perfection, one of those projects you simply dream of having in your portfolio. Created ‘to help people in Boston better understand the trains, how people use the trains, and how the people and trains interact with each other’ this project provides incredible levels of intricate detail, design attention and elegance in interaction across several sections of content. Let me leave you with the fact that this was produced for a graduate course at WPI – bravo to Matthew Ward as the programme’s data visualisation teacher.


3. Data Journalism sites


It has been impossible to ignore the emergence – in a very similar timeframe – of new data journalist organisations/entities led (in profile terms) by Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, Vox, and the New York Times’ Upshot. It is still, of course, early days for each of these entities to bed themselves in and establish a clear raison d’etre. Indeed there has been quite a lot of criticism (very good articles by Alberto and Brian Keegan) about the output they have demonstrated to date, even if most observers accept this is quite an exciting and potentially disruptive development in the journalism space. This overview from Nate Silver for the launch of FiveThirtyEight offers a good guide for what to expect over the coming months, with similar intros from David Leondart for The Upshot and Ezra Klein for Vox. Watch this space with interest.


4. Storytelling Discourse


Through a reflective lens the phrase ‘hot topic’ tends to mean one of two things: short term gimmick or a concept that is being strongly debated. You tend to only strongly debate things that have some kind of traction and that is certainly what ‘storytelling’ as a concept feels like. We’ve been nibbling around the edges of this issue for a year or two but this past few months really saw some more concerted efforts at refining the definitions, applications and role of storytelling in data visualisation. If my memory of the precedents serve me correctly, here is the story… Moritz Stefaner kicked things off with an astutely timed bit of trolling during Tapestry Conference 2014 and then walked-the-walk with a well argued article about ‘Worlds, not stories‘. At the same time Dino and Kim of Periscopic were respectively rocking-boats with a ‘Framework for Talking about Data Narration‘ and ‘Talking Numbers at Visualized‘. Lynn Cherny weighed in with her piece ‘Implied Stories (and Data Vis)‘ later followed by ‘Data Characters in Search of An Author‘. Robert Kosara made two contributions with the skillfully framed ‘Stories Are Gateways into Worlds‘ and then ‘Story: A Definition‘. Then we had the summit meeting with the Data Stories episode 35 (constructive) clash of perspectives involving Moritz, Enrico Bertini, Robert and Alberto Cairo. Alberto wrote up his thoughts ‘Annotation, narrative, and storytelling in infographics and visualization‘. We then had follow up reflection/discussion pieces from Jeff Clark, Andy Cotgreave and Jon Schwabish. Additionally, for reference, in the past Cole Nussbaumer (as her site/twitter name suggests) has discussed at length the issue of storytelling with data. I’m sure many others have too, apologies that I can’t include everyone’s stories in this summary paragraph…


5. Lyra


You can’t failed to have noticed the buzz around the conference circuit this year caused by the early demonstrations of Lyra, or officially the ‘Lyra Visualisation Design Environment (VDE)’, an interactive environment that “enables custom visualization design without writing any code”. Lyra is emerging from the same research lab (supervised by the omni-brilliant Jeff Heer) that brought Protovis and D3 to the field and comes from the significant brain of Arvind Satyanarayan. Arvind has done a great job of introducing the tool over the past few months which aims to offer “more expressive than interactive systems like Tableau, allowing designers to create custom visualizations comparable to hand-coded visualizations built with D3 or Processing”. Here is a short demo video to see the environment and output, a paper giving more detail, Jim Vallandingham (the king tutorialiser) has produced an insanely good tutorial already and John Burn-Murdoch has been giving it a run out in some of his work at the FT.


6. Wee Things and Two Little Ducks


Unlike last year, I’ve actually managed to attend a number of conferences already this year and have witnessed a deluge of great talks. I’ve also watched many of the recordings and read the increasingly-trendy (and thank god because its brilliant) slide narratives. There were two talks in particular that absolutely chimed with every ticking cog in my visualisation head, and indeed were talks I didn’t actually witness in person. Jonathan Corum is responsible for some of the very best presentations in this field. I’ve never had the pleasure of attending one of his sessions but if the intricate detail of his write-ups (and incredible body of work) are anything to go by they are must-see events. His talk at Malofiej titled “Two Little Ducks” was a magnificent piece of work, superbly framed and sequenced and oozing with valuable insight at every turn. The second talk came from Lena Groeger at OpenVisConf. At the time of Lena’s talk I was sat with Robert Kosara in a taxi heading for the airport bemoaning the fact we were missing it! I have since had the opportunity to watch the video of Lena discussing ‘A Few of My Favourite Wee Things‘ and gone through a companion slide deck/collection of ideas and it is everything I hoped it was going to be: a creative and comprehensive glance through the many different issues of ‘tiny’ in visualisation design. It is just ‘right up my street’, as the saying goes. A special mention too for Jon Schwabish’s short story at Tapestry discussing ‘Goofy Comparisons‘.


7. Washington Post Graphics goodness


The Washington Post Graphics team has never been better. Under the Directorship of Kat Downs Mulder, the work coming from their multi-talented team deservedly places them right at the top table of this field alongside their New York rivals counterparts. I can’t profile all the staff in one go but people like Katie Park, Darla Cameron, Denise Lu and Kennedy Elliott (to name but a few) are some of the brilliant people you should be following. You’ll notice that is a stream of female names: it shouldn’t need to be noticeable or need surfacing as a ‘thing’, but in a field of 3 males to every 1 female it is something that is important to celebrate. There are some very good human men in the team, also. Richard Johnson‘s arrival has certainly introduced a special new ingredient to the mix (especially with his incredible illustration skills) as has the prolific and talented Christopher Ingraham who is firing out some great stuff on the Wonk Blog and the fascinating companion site ‘Know More‘.


8. Bloomberg’s Tracking Super Bowl Tickets


I’m a sucker for connected scatter-plots and this was one of the best I’ve seen by the Bloomberg Visual Data Team showing the daily price and secondary market volume of Super Bowl tickets. There’s so much to admire with this graphic, such as the ghosting background comparisons, the annotated extremes but one of my favourite features is simply the ‘How to’ pop-up. With visualisation literacy very much on my mind right now, the coaching this helpful guide provides is excellent – helping viewers understand how to make sense of the shape, direction and trajectory of the connected story. It really preserves the potential of this appropriately chosen graphic device to be understood and I think that is a great sign.


9. WSJ’s ‘How does 3D printing work?’


This entry is very much filed under ‘one to watch’. On the basis that this collection is about things that I reckon are significant, either as case studies of great work or trends in the field, my spidey senses tell me this might be something we see more of in the future. The Wall Street Journal’s guide to 3D printing also included a chart showing personal 3D printer sales, in 3D for you to download and print, in 3D! As the home 3D printer becomes a commodity, maybe the graphics of our near future will have exportable, home-printable 3D downloads as routine, just as we have data downloads right now.


10. Success of the NYT Dialect Map


The interactive Dialect Map ‘How Y’all, Youse, and You Guys Talk’ by Josh Katz and Wilson Andrews was released on December 21, 2013. (“Andy, that’s out of scope for this collection. Idiot!”, you cry, prematurely). In the 11 days it was online during 2013 it became THE most visited New York Times web pages of 2013 (via the Atlantic). Just let that sink in. A staggering success story, as I discussed in more detail in February.


Special mentions…

Here are the other highlights from the first half of 2014 that deserve a special mention:

NYT Sochi Collection | Easy to be complacent about the ongoing brilliance of this department’s output, another genius portfolio of work, this time from the Sochi winter olympics.

News Vis | A very useful, explorable collection curated by Robert Kosara of the best visualisation and infographic output from news and media organisation.

Data Visualization Checklist | A super useful checklist developed by Stephanie Evergreen and Ann Emery to guide folks towards more effective data visualisation constructions.

World Cup league representation | There was a lot of good stuff produced during the World Cup but this was amongst my favourites from the Guardian US Interactive team (primarily led by Kenan Davis) to show at each stage of the World Cup which leagues had the most representation amongst the remaining players still competing.

OpenVisConf | This interface created by Yannick Assogba is a wonderfully innovative way to share videos from conference events

Letters in words | Graphing the distribution of English letters within words. Might not sound particularly exciting but it is a dead simple but engaging piece of analysis.

Scientific American Blog | I loved Jen Christiansen’s article ‘How I Reconciled My Love for Art and Science’

Tableau for the Mac | Relatively self-explanatory, just a very useful development opening up a very important potential user base (and making my life endlessly easier)

Atlas of Prejudice | Probably an off-beat choice but I liked it and it’s my list. So there.

Spurious Correlations | Just because.

Seeing Data: Recognising the intent of a visualisation

For cross-posting purposes: Over on the Seeing Data research project blog, I have posted an article discussing the need for greater sophistication in recognising what outcomes certain visualisations are attempting to accomplish and indeed what they are capable of accomplishing.

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Best of the visualisation web… June 2014

At the end of each month I pull together a collection of links to some of the most relevant, interesting or thought-provoking web content I’ve come across during the previous month. Here’s the latest collection from June 2014.


Includes static and interactive visualisation examples, infographics and galleries/collections of relevant imagery.

New York Times | ‘How the Recession Reshaped the Economy, in 255 Charts’ – A highlight of the year from the NYT in the form of a scatter plot sparkline-multiple extravaganza

Noah Veltman | Animated heatmap showing the height vs. weight of NFL players over time

Egypt Building Collapses | Interactive audio (quite terrifying if you put the volume up) and visual timeline portraying the terrible number of Egyptian buildings collapsing

Flowing Data | Nathan profiles a tool that lets you move the poles of the Mercator projection to anywhere in the world

The Guardian | The first of many visualisations related to the World Cup, a super piece by the Guardian US asking ‘Do Golden Boot winners help win the World Cup?’

FastCo Exist | “This Map Shows How Far You Can Get In Traffic At Any Time Of Day”

New York Times | Huge interactive mosaic of Google Street View images showing ‘the 43,634 Properties in Detroit That Were on the Brink of Foreclosure This Year’

Spatial Information Design Lab | Report about visualisation work related to a NYC ‘Citi Bike Rebalancing Study’

New York Times | Gregor Aisch’s interactive network map that shows ‘The Clubs that Connect the World Cup’

Density Design Lab | ‘Seven Days of Carsharing: Exploring and visualizing the Enjoy carsharing service in Milan’

Dead Spin | ‘When Did Nazi Insults Spike On Twitter During USA-Germany?’

The Guardian | Tour de France 2014: Interactive stage and tactics guide

WSJ | ‘World Cup Players’ Penalty Kick Patterns’

National Geographic | ‘The Evolution of Alvin’ – A graphical timeline of the evolution of the deep-sea submersible as he (/it) celebrates a 50th birthday

Twitter | An alternative vision of the areas of land by type in London

The Guardian | ‘The Seven Digital Deadly Sins’ is an interactive project that profiles confessions of familiar faces relating their experiences of moral dilemmas in the digital world of today

Evogeneao | ‘The Evogeneao Tree of Life is a colorful genealogical family tree that helps students and the public understand evolution at a glance’

Globo Esporte | Wonderfully deep and multi-faceted interactive and animated narrative about the history of the World Cup

OECD | The OECD Regional Well-Being project

Dark Horse Analytics | ‘World Chat Clock helps you find a time to chat with people in different cities’

MobileVis | ‘Examples of data visualization usage on mobile devices and offer some observed best practices for building your mobile data visualization interfaces.’

GFK | ‘The European Political Twittersphere: Network of top users discussing the 2014 European Elections’

FastCo Design | ‘TrendViz Turns News Relevant To You Into Sleek Data Visualizations’

Twitter | “The number of workers who died in construction in the run up to recent sporting events” (warning: includes a naughty word)

New York Times | ’2014 World Cup Special’ – Wonderful long form digital article with some terrific integrating of photo imagery and illustration

Twitter | From Amazing Maps: ’60% of the population of Iceland lives here’

BoingBoing | …similar concept showing ‘The total area of solar panels it would take to power the world, Europe, and Germany’

Information Geographies | ‘Information Geographies at the Oxford Internet Institute’ – “This project proposes a comprehensive mapping of contemporary geographies of knowledge”

Visual Loop | Special edition of World Cup infographics from Brazil

Visual Loop | …and a special edition of interactive World Cup projects

Slate | ‘Interactive Time-Lapse Map Shows How the U.S. Took More Than 1.5 Billion Acres From Native Americans’

Tableau | ‘Tracking Ebola in Africa’ – Ramon Martinez has been all over this breaking story for weeks now, here’s some of his analysis

Pro Publica | Interactive small multiples show ‘Ambulances for Dialysis Patients on Rise’

WNYC | Interactive tool to explore the graduating rate histories of each NYC high school

The Guardian | Great tool used to track the remaining representation of players from different leagues at each stage of the World Cup


The emphasis on these items is that they are less about visualisation images and are more article-focused, so includes discussion, discourse, interviews and videos

Mapping Complex Information | Sheila discusses Will Burtin’s significant legacy to the world of Information Design

Storytelling With Data | Cole presents a range of alternatives to the pie chart

Eager Eyes | Robert looks at some examples where the bars in the bar chart point downwards and make sense to do so

FiveThrityEight | Great series called “Hope the Numbers Help” by Mona Chalabi answering reader’s questions with data | ‘Data vs. Editorial Judgment: The Danger of Chasing Numbers’

Periscopic | A great article discussing the objective of removing confusion from complexity

Smashing Magazine | ‘What Is The Most Underrated Word In Web Design?’ (answer: “affordance”)

ONS Digital Publishing | ‘Prototyping a platform for data storytelling’

Washington Post | ‘How one hackathon visualized ‘invisible data’ on the worldwide women’s empowerment problem’

NPR | ‘The NPR Visuals Team: How we work’

Pew Research Center | ‘Why we didn’t include the y-axis on our polarization chart’ – interesting discussion about design choices

Learning & Development

These links cover presentations, tutorials, learning opportunities, case-studies, how-tos etc.

AT&T Research | Collection of information visualisation papers from AT&T

Open Culture | If you happen to have 42 hours spare… ‘Everything I Know: 42 Hours of Buckminster Fuller’s Visionary Lectures Free Online (1975)’ (confession: I have not watched all of these) | Project narrative for the new OECD Regional Well-Being project

YouTube | Josh Katz gives a talk at the NYC DataViz meetup discussing the NYT Dialect Map

UW Interactive Data Lab | Paper: ‘Authoring Narrative Visualizations with Ellipsis’ by Arvind Satyanarayan and Jeff Heer’

bost.ocks | ‘Visualizing Algorithms’ – “Algorithms are a fascinating use case for visualization. To visualize an algorithm, we don’t merely fit data to a chart; there is no primary dataset.”

Data to Display | Discussion about different ways of constructing small multiples

O’Reilly | Video: Scott Murray’s ‘An Introduction to d3.js: From Scattered to Scatterplot’

Journal of Arts and Humanities | Paper: ‘Data Visualization and Infographics in Visual Communication Design Education at the Age of Information’

Subject News

Includes announcements within the field, brand new sites, new (to me) sites, new books and generally interesting developments.

DataRemixed | New book: ‘Communicating Data with Tableau’ by Ben Jones (Congrats Ben!)

Squish Logic | New tool: ‘Sankey Diagram’ – “Optimized for the visual iPad interface, Sankey Diagram allows users to visualize energy flows, economics, and more” (use promo code: KEPHHRXFFPMX)

Gareth Cook | New Book: ‘The Best American Infographics 2014′

Dataviz | New Site: ‘Dadaviz’, publishes a stream of different data visualisation projects

Search is over | ‘Exploring Cultural Collections with Visualization’ – International Workshop in conjunction with DL2014, 11-12 September 2014 in London

The Beauty of Health | “The Beauty of Health Data is a national exhibition and competition of health data visualizations hosted by the Foundation for Healthcare Innovation (FHI)” – here is an exhibition of the entries

GitHub | Elijah Meeks’ release of D3.js library that renders sketchy/handrawn rectangles and circles

Fathom | New Tool: ‘Mirador’ – “A tool for visual exploration of complex datasets which enables users to infer new hypotheses from the data and discover correlation patterns”


Any other items that may or may not be directly linked to data visualisation but might have a data/technology focus or just seem worthy of sharing

Who Pays Artists | A site that let’s you share and learn about the earning experiences of artists

Web Colour Data | Creates a colour profile for any website address you request

New York Times | A very addictive ‘spot the ball’ quiz based on goals from the World Cup

New York Times | Jennifer Daniel’s superbly bonkers ‘Battle Cries’ project playing the audio recordings of different football commentators saying “Goaallll!”

Animagraffs | Jacob O’Neal’s site showcasing his masterful animated gif designs of cutaways and mechanisms

xkcd | ‘Space, without the space’ – showing the solar system’s solid surfaces stitched together

FastCo Design | ‘Beautiful Stamps Reveal The Hidden Geometry Of The World Cup’

WSJ | A profile of how 3D printing works alongside a downloadable 3D-printable chart showing the sales of 3D printers. Is that clear?

WSJ | ’100 legacies from World War I that continue to shape our lives today.’

YouTube | ‘Flight of the Conchords friendship graph’

New York Times | ‘As Robotics Advances, Worries of Killer Robots Rise’

22Words | ‘Designing the least user friendly products imaginable just for fun’

Phd Comics | ‘Your conference presentation’

Re-using custom graphic archetypes

One of the (many) things that impresses me most about the quality of data visualisation and infographic output from the leading journalist organisations is the continued variety and innovation of their techniques. Rather than just being constrained by a limited visual vocabulary, each new work published tends to feature a solution uniquely suited to the data, the analysis and the subject matter involved. Given the pervasive time constraints involved, the work we see created, day in day out, is quite incredible.

Of course, on special occasions, there is a compelling reason to potentially re-cycle previously used graphic archetypes and there was an example of this last week that was both astute and highly impactive.


Firstly, to explain what I mean by re-using custom graphic archetypes. I’m not talking about the repeated use of an off-the-shelf chart on numerous separate occasions, like the bar or the line chart, I’m referring to more bespoke solutions that have been used for multiple projects.

The New York Times, for example, utilised this interactive and participative matrix to assess the public’s reaction to the death of Osama Bin Laden back in May 2011.


They then, quite correctly, used the same underlying graphic approach to assess the reaction to Barrack Obama’s stance on same-sex marriage. Why reinvent the wheel when you’ve got a perfectly applicable solution on your shelf?


In another example, The Guardian launched their innovative interactive timeline in March 2011 to outline the key milestones and sequence of events related to the Arab Spring.


In June of the same year it was re-imagined as a timeline to show the evolution of modern music…


…and again in October 2012 to show the events leading to the Eurozone crisis. An entirely reasonable, appropriate and – importantly – effective choice.


Whilst it is not purely the same archetype being re-used, last week’s ‘How high can a missile reach?‘ graphic published by the Washington Post (by Bonnie Berkowitz, Julie Tate and Richard Johnson) had a more profound effect. This was a vertical-scrollable graphic that aimed to show the scale of the height involved in the tragic shooting down of the Malaysia Flight MH17. I’ve recorded a brief video of it below.

As I mentioned on Twitter last week, there is something so haunting about the juxtaposition of the ‘how high’ graphic considering just three months earlier, the Post produced a ‘how deep’ graphic showing the ‘The depth of the problem‘ (by Richard Johnson and Ben Chartoff). This was a very similar graphic device used to show the scale of the depth involved in the search for the Malaysia Flight MH370 black box.

Once again, the appropriateness of the same graphic approach being used is without question. The switch from height to depth, from upwards scrolling to downwards scrolling, to visually capture the essence of two so-closely-linked tragedies was very cleverly conceived and had a big impact on me.

Interviewed on Chez Voilà blog

My thanks to Francis Gagnon for inviting me to take part in a fun, off-beat interview on his site. His questions were super refreshing, I look forward to seeing others in this series.

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Updated training schedule

Just a quick note to share an update on my upcoming ‘Introduction to Data Visualisation & Infographic Design’ public training workshops. Due to a particularly packed schedule for the rest of 2014 (especially due to private workshops) I’ve only got capacity to fit in 3 additional public events. These will be in San Francisco, Leeds and another event in London later in the year.


You will see I have put an early call out for folks in Australia and New Zealand. I visited Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne in November 2013 and will be heading back down under in April 2015. Whilst I have a outstanding demand expressed to visit certain locations from last year I am keen to gather additional suggestions to ensure my schedule is best serving the demands out there. Get in touch!

Finally, in the next few weeks I will be (finally!) relaunching my website and this will include an updated profile of all my training activities and menu of offerings. So that will be nice.

Best of the visualisation web… May 2014

At the end of each month I pull together a collection of links to some of the most relevant, interesting or thought-provoking web content I’ve come across during the previous month. Here’s the latest collection from May 2014.


Includes static and interactive visualisation examples, infographics and galleries/collections of relevant imagery.

National Climate Assessment | Some nice graphics across this report: “Explore highlights and the full report of the National Climate Assessment”

Moebio | Santiago creates a whole new way of looking at the world wide web via a trace of site links over time “The First Web, and Beyond”

ONS | Slopegraph showing ranking relationship between countries and their number of visits to UK and the spending per day of visitors from those countries in 2013

New Yorker | Interactive and video exploring the most radioactive place in New York City

Guardian | ‘Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights around the world’

Vizual-Statistix | ‘A career shooting percentages of every NBA player’

WSJ | Long form piece from the WSJ exploring the phenomena of Alibaba, China’s biggest online commerce company

mdaniels | Examining the vocabulary of hip hop artists based on the number of unique words used within artist’s first 35000 lyrics

Smartmine | Who wouldn’t want to watch tracking data for whales? This tool lets you “follow sperm, beaked, false killer, and pigmy killer whales as they migrate around the Hawaiian Islands” (love the Ocean view especially)

Australian Financial Review | My friends at Small Multiples did this really nice interactive to explore language used by the current and previous Treasurers to explain their budgets

Washington Post | ‘The most lethal actors of all time, by number of career kills on screen’

CartoDB | Animated map showing the geotagged tweets mentioning Arsenal or Hull City during the FA Cup final in May

New York Times | ‘Rating a Health Law’s Success’ – with a sequence of slopegraphs. Yes!

BigtimeBCN | More ‘Age of a city’ goodness, this time for Barcelona

Forum | Infographic showing how Africa tweets

CS 171 | Always look forward to the publication of the Harvard ‘CS 171 – Visualization’ course end of year best student visualisation projects gallery

LA Times | Take a video-flyover across the LA area showing the updated location of the earthquake fault zones routes.

Urban Demographics | 3D projections that show ‘Urban Density Patterns in 9 Global Cities’

Lincolnmullen | Animated map that shows the spread of US slavery between 1790 and 1860

The Upshot | ‘Which Team to you Cheer For?’ a map of NBA fans across the US

The Upshot | Music to my ears, or eyes, as this graphic comprehensively shows how Liverpool were robbed of the Premier League title – ‘The Premier League Standings if Only Goals by English Players Counted’

Andreapinchi | ‘No Country for Young Men’ – analysis of the age of Italian Parliament members

Dark Horse Analytics | ‘Breathing City’ Joey takes a look at Manhattan’s population who are at home or at work, by hour

Guardian | Profiling the animated mapping project by CASA to look at the evolution of London’s 2000 year history

Seventeenpeople | ‘A modest tribute to – and deconstruction of – my favourite hour of television’ – an ode to Aaron Sorkin

Retale | ’13 Years of Apple Stores in 60 Seconds’

Vimeo | Discovered via Jer Thorp’s datastories episode. This is a video of actors reading the most common first names for artists in MOMA’s accessioned collection, in order, by gender (hint: listen for the occasional female speakers)

Prooffreader | ‘Graphing the distribution of English letters towards the beginning, middle or end of words’

Slavery Footprint | ‘How many slaves work for you?’

FastCo Design | ‘Falling In Love, Visualize’ – work by Lam Thuy Vo using text message data to visualize the sparks of love

Washington Post | ‘Weapons and mass shootings’ – chart showing every gun that was used in a mass shooting and how those guns were obtained.

SCMP | An incredible attempt to portray the hugely complex issue of the conflicts in the waters between China and Vietnam.

New York Times | ‘A New Story Told at Ground Zero: The National September 11 Memorial Museum’

The Upshot | ‘Is It Better to Rent or Buy?’

The Atlantic | ‘The World of Starbucks, Mapped’ [+ subtitle of the month: "No matter where you are on the planet, you're never more than 5,000 miles from a Starbucks."]

Washington Post | Connected Scatterplot showing how ‘Inequality and political polarization have been rising in tandem for three decades’

Flowing Data | Analysis of ‘Where Bars Outnumber Grocery Stores’

Washington Post | A scatter-plot showing the best and worst ceremonial first pitches (showing that 50 Cent’s was possibly the worst)


The emphasis on these items is that they are less about visualisation images and are more article-focused, so includes discussion, discourse, interviews and videos

Int3rhacktives | An interview with data visualiser Ri Liu from Pitch Interactive

Periscopic | Dino discusses the issue that data – and what data is or isn’t – is a point of view.

GiorgiaLupi | ‘Bellas Razones [Beautiful Reasons]‘ A super Italian/English article by Giorgia sharing the approach Accurat take to balance their aesthetic and practical choices across their portfolio of work (based on her Visualized talk of 2014)

YouTube | ‘CHI Belgium Hangouts with interesting people: Moritz Stefaner’

New York Times | ‘The United States of Metrics’

Junk Charts | Nice piece by Kaiser discussing ‘how effective visualisation brings data alive’

JSK | Shazna Nessa discusses ‘how journalists can turn raw information into data visualizations that are both appealing and understandable to real people’

Ghostweather | A great article by Lynn, offering a second-part to her discussion about Implied Stories.

Scientific American | When an article begins with ‘Andy Kirk…’ and has ‘clever’ in the same sentence then there’s a good chance I’m going to be loving it! (It is a really nice piece by Jen looking ‘Under the Hood of Online Data Visualization’)

Nieman Journalism Lab | ‘The leaked New York Times innovation report is one of the key documents of this media age’

Ampp3d | ’11 mistakes that will drive data nerds crazy’

Source | Lovely article by one of my favourite people in viz – Sarah Slobin – as she ‘discovers that all the facts and numbers didn’t add up to the humans in her story’

BBC Internet Blog | ‘To mark 20 years of the BBC being online, we wanted to see if there was a way of representing the growth and changing shape of the site over the last 20 years.’

OpenVisConf | A beautiful way to break down and share the videos from the OpenVisConf 2014 (My ‘The Design of Nothing’ is in there…)

Simon Rogers | ‘Data journalism needs to go mobile’

Tow Center | Report: ‘The Art and Science of Data-Driven Journalism’

Michael Babwahsingh | Michael discusses how rarely ‘information design acknowledges the missing, the unknown’

The Functional Art | Yes >> ‘Infographics that just work better on paper’

Aeon | Quite a long article looking at the relationship between truth and beauty. Some Operators in particular may find this interesting.

SND | ‘Infographic case study: Boston Globe’s energetic interactive and print graphics’

Policy Viz | Jon shares his thoughts on the ‘So What?’ test as introduced by Alberto in the Datastories episode 35

Gravy Anecdote | Continuing the recent discussions about storytelling, Andy Cotgreave challenges some of the views (of Moritz in particular) from the same episode 35

Juice Analytics | Great message: ’10 Ways to Reduce to Improve Your Data Visualizations’ | Paper: ‘Reflections on How Designers Design With Data’

Contently | Interview with Bloomberg Visual’s leader, Lisa Strausfeld

Source | ‘Distrust your data: Jacob Harris on Six Ways to Make Mistakes with Data’

Learning & Development

These links cover presentations, tutorials, learning opportunities, case-studies, how-tos etc.

Perceptual Edge | Nice summary from Stephen about some of the methods of displaying change between two points in time – such a frequent task

Sankeymatic | Tool: SankeyMATIC – a Sankey diagram builder built in d3.js

tylervigen | Loads and loads and loads of brilliant charts that show some spurious correlations eg. Number people who drowned in a swimming pool correlates with the number of films Nicolas Cage has been in. Obviously.

Sorting | ‘An attempt to visualise and help to understand how some of the most famous sorting algorithms work.’

Medium | A write up of ‘Experiences & insights from a course by Jonathan Corum, Bret Victor, Mike Bostock & Edward Tufte’

GiorigaLupi | Another great contribution for Giorgia this month, this time a nice project narrative from Accurat’s work on ‘The Life Cycle of Ideas’ for Popular Science

Well Formed Data | Moritz outlines some of the updated features of the Better Life Index 2014

Source | Project narrative by Alastair Dant and Hannah Fairfield as they discuss the work behind the scenes of their ‘Few Helmets, More Deaths’ project

Mic | ’9 Things You’d Believe About World Geography if You Only Listened to Fox News’

Evergreen Data | Great work by Stephanie and Ann Emery to create a data visualisation creation checklist

Storytelling With Data | Really useful article from Cole, ‘the story you want to tell…and the one your data shows’

Stamen | ‘Stamen’s Checklist for Maps’ – Here’s another super useful checklist, but this more narrowly focused on maps

Collossal | ‘The Cyanometer, a 225-Year-Old Tool for Measuring the Blueness of the Sky’

Caroline Beavon | A long article by Caroline about infographics, making them accessible and many other design considerations

Subject News

Includes announcements within the field, brand new sites, new (to me) sites, new books and generally interesting developments.

Global Editors Network | Announcing the nine winners of the Data Journalism Awards 2014

Journalism | ‘BBC to launch daily infographics shared on social media’


Any other items that may or may not be directly linked to data visualisation but might have a data/technology focus or just seem worthy of sharing

Guardian | ‘Second world war in Google Street View’ – overlaying photos from the second world war

Twitter | Useful little explainer for the difference between Type I and Type II errors.

Collossal | ’271 Years Before Pantone, an Artist Mixed and Described Every Color Imaginable in an 800-Page Book’

The Creators Project | ‘This Is What The Internet Sounds Like’ – audio of different big data centres

FastCo Create | R.I.P HR Giger

FastCo Design | R.I.P. Massimo Vignelli

Wired | ’400 Years of Beautiful, Historical, and Powerful Globes’

NPR | ‘The Best Commencement Speeches, Ever’ – Over 300 searchable addresses going back to 1774

Slash Film | ‘Every Word In Star Wars Sorted Alphabetically’

Guardian | ‘World Cup kits through the ages – interactive guide’

xkcd | “Someone is wrong on the internet.”

Business Insider | ‘Inside The 45-Day Planning Process That Goes Into Creating A Single Corporate Tweet’

Twitter | “We are becoming rational, analytical, and data-driven in a far wider range of activity than ever before”

Buzzfeed | ‘The 21 Worst Police Sketches Of All Time’

LinkedIn | ‘Error messages are evil’

Twitter | ‘Save Paper – Save The Planet ‘

New York Times | ‘What are you drinking?’ – Interactive and customised cocktail builder

Seeing Data: 8 Articles Discussing Visual and Visualisation Literacy

For cross-posting purposes: Over on the Seeing Data research project blog, I have posted a collection of 8 articles concerning visual and visualisation literacy.

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Why visualisation is a pursuit of optimisation

I’ve had this short post sat in my draft folder for weeks now, awaiting the right context before publishing. I’m finally motivated to post it having seen a few discussions on Twitter last week whilst on holiday (when the hotel pool has wifi, what can you do but look now and again…).

The Twitter discussions involved comments along the lines of “good, but would have been nice if…”. This is something I’ve uttered and written hundreds of times before: it is an inevitable reaction of somebody assessing what is in front of them. (Whisper it, sometimes it will also be a comment shared with the wider world to help others understand just how super astute you are!)

I didn’t bookmark the conversations nor is it about pinpointing individuals, indeed I can’t even remember who was involved. Furthermore, this isn’t another criticism-soapbox piece but a simple reminder that data visualisation – and frankly any creative endeavour – is a pursuit of optimisation.

Firstly, it is important to remember that the “it would have been nice if…” observation (usually in relation to absence of a certain design feature) is more than likely a view also shared by the creator. Just because a piece of work doesn’t include something that would have added value doesn’t necessarily mean that it wasn’t both considered and desired by the designer him/herself.

This short exchange between Elijah Meeks and Hannah Fairfield in relation to a New York Times graphic about the Affordable Care Act demonstrates the reality of the circumstances in which projects are created. I’m not picking on Elijah’s query – the hover/click feature was something I remember also instinctively wanting – because it was an entirely valid point, rather I’m struck by Hannah’s quick reply ‘ran outta time for tooltips’.

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Secondly – and mainly – we rarely, if ever, have perfect conditions for creating visualisation work. It is a game of compromise shaped by factors like resource limitations, time constraints, client interference, format restrictions, market pressures etc. It is sometimes about the skill of judging when ‘good enough’ has been achieved. Indeed, on some occasions it is not even about settling for ‘second best’ but realising there is a viable path represented by a least worst solution.

So, don’t stop critiquing work and querying whether something had been considered. Don’t stop commenting on what you think would be good to make something even better. But do remember that there is likely a good reason why certain things couldn’t be achieved in the context of its creation.