Learn the rules of data graphics so you can bend them

Posted to Design  |  Tags: , ,  |  Nathan Yau

If you take away anything from The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, make it the epilogue. This is the most important part:

Design is choice. The theory of the visual display of quantitative information consists of principles that generate design options and that guide choices among options. The principles should not be applied rigidly or in a peevish spirit; they are not logically or mathematically certain; and it is better to violate any principle than to place graceless or inelegant marks on paper. Most principles of design should be greeted with some skepticism, for word authority can dominate our vision, and we may come to see only through the lenses of word authority rather than with our own eyes.

When we first start out with data graphics, it is easy to read a list of rules about ratios, flourishes, and sizes, and then trick ourselves into believing that is all there is to it. But like cooking, writing, programming, painting, speaking, designing, sporting and numerous other things, you learn the basics first. The principles. And then you figure out what rules can bend and how far.

Favorites

The Best Data Visualization Projects of 2014

It’s always tough to pick my favorite visualization projects. Nevertheless, I gave it a go.

19 Maps That Will Blow Your Mind and Change the Way You See the World. Top All-time. You Won’t Believe Your Eyes. Watch.

Many lists of maps promise to change the way you see the world, but this one actually does.

A Day in the Life of Americans

I wanted to see how daily patterns emerge at the individual level and how a person’s entire day plays out. So I simulated 1,000 of them.

Causes of Death

There are many ways to die. Cancer. Infection. Mental. External. This is how different groups of people died over the past 10 years, visualized by age.