Think Quarterly from Google UK on data

Posted to Statistics  |  Tags: ,  |  Nathan Yau

“The problem isn’t that specialised companies lack the data they need, it’s that they don’t go and look for it, they don’t understand how to handle it.”

—Hans Rosling, A Data State of Mind, March 2011

Google UK produced a short book called Think Quarterly to distribute to partners and advertisers, but it’s actually pretty interesting for a more general audience. Articles feature Hans Rosling, Hal Varian, and others. Also a hat tip to FlowingData in Simon Rogers’ list of sexy resources.


  • I’ve just browsed this, but looks to be some interesting stuff in here.

    One question for people – any thoughts on how to produce a picture like the on on page 18 of the PDF?

    I’ve seen a number of similar things (the Hans Rosling example jumps to mind) and I’ve done this in an animated fashion in Flex/Flash, but I really like the treatment here. I can see cranking this out over a long couple days in illustrator, but wondering if there isn’t a better (repeatable…) way. R? Processing? (I’ve tinkered with both, but not enough to answer my own question here).

    • Moritz Stefaner ( did that, and he usually uses Flash. He often makes use of the Flare package.

      • Ah.. you know, I thought it looked familiar. I hung up Flare in favor of my own home-grown stuff, but I’ll have another look to see if there’s something I can work with there. Thanks.

      • Thanks for the post and comments – this time around, actually, I used Illustrator and Nodebox ( Find some more info on the graphics (and the non-inverted originals) here:

      • Moritz: Thank you! I wasn’t familiar with nodebox (so many tools so little time) but in 30 minutes I’ve generated a picture very similar to yours (as a little exercise for myself). I need to sort out how you drew the “tails” (I have the increasing-in-size circles, but the “ghost-cone-outline” is what really makes your graphic stand apart). I suspect I can get that sorted in short-order though.

        Always nice to get inspiration from somewhere, then hear from the author of that inspiration. Thanks again!

      • Hope not to spil the puzzle for you, but I just draw a low opacity, thick line between the circle centers :)

      • Ha… it’s always the simple answer isn’t it? Though I kind of enjoyed going back to my high school geometry and doing lengthy math to draw some bezier curves (At least I have a new appreciation of bezier curves!)

  • I just received my print (hardback) copy of it. Pretty impressive, especially the 3D pop-up infographic at the end. Pics here:


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