• Data visualization doesn’t matter

    May 22, 2012  |  Discussion  |  Kim Rees

    Visual.ly analyzed the top 30 infographics posted on their site and determined that data visualization doesn't matter:

    Data visualization certainly matters when it comes to conveying information effectively, but when it comes to sharing, the answer is no: having data to represent is not a critical ingredient in infographics. More than half, or 53%, of the top 30 graphics do not contain data visualization. And by data visualization, we mean visual objects that are sized, colored, or positioned to represent numerical values.

    I think what they actually mean is that data visualization is not the sole factor of a successful visualization. Since they are only analyzing the top 30 infographics, the minority 47% that had data visualization are still very successful. It would be a different story if the 53% of infographics without dataviz were the top successes and the 47% with dataviz were the bottom losers.

    My hunch is that the successful infographics posted on Visual.ly are popular because, like other viral content, they strike a nerve, are of the moment, are humorous yet relevant, or have some other je ne sais quoi.

  • Open thread: Are we drowning or swimming in data?

    April 5, 2012  |  Discussion

    After reading another article about the flood of data that we're drowning and struggling to stay afloat in, I wondered, "If everyone is drowning in data, does that mean statisticians are the life preservers?" Some agreed, but others went a slightly different route. Some said plumbers, and others said lifeguards. Someone said they're the annoying kid doing cannonballs.

    The metaphor seems to change depending on where you're sitting and what body of water you're in, so just for kicks and giggles, let's see how far we can stretch this metaphor. If data is the tsunami and people are drowning, what does that make statisticians, data scientists, and information designers? Plus points for ridiculousness.

  • The Many Words for Visualization

    September 29, 2011  |  Discussion

    There are a lot of words to describe visualization and visualization-related things. It can be confusing. You just came across this thing with data and stuff, but what do you call it? Here I define what all those words mean. Keep in mind, I'm not so, uh, good with words and, uh, stuff, so yeah.

    Disclaimer: This is how I perceive the words. They are not official dictionary or academic definitions. Don't use these in your next report or paper, unless you want to be laughed at.
    Continue Reading

  • Open thread: Is it OK to confuse if that’s the message?

    August 26, 2011  |  Discussion

    Original mobile patent graphic

    Earlier this week we saw two versions of mobile patent lawsuits. The original was tangled, whereas the interactive revision was less jumbled. Reader Josh commented that the original had an advantage over the clearer version in that it actually demonstrated the mess that is patent law. A simliar argument came up last year, too, with this confusing chart showing Obamacare.

    With the patent chart, there's clearly a way to make the data more readable. If you had a choice between the original and the remake, is it okay to choose the original if your point is that mobile patent lawsuits suck and are more confusing than they need to be?

  • Open thread: Data as cake and frosting?

    July 28, 2011  |  Discussion

    Data and cake

    Mark Johnstone uses a cake metaphor to represent data, presentation, and what you gain. Does the metaphor work? Sound off in the comments below.

  • Open thread: Is the Food Plate better than the Pyramid?

    June 14, 2011  |  Discussion

    My Plate

    In an effort to decrease obesity and improve general health, the US government announced their newest guide to food proportions: the food plate. This of course is a departure from the food pyramid that has been around in one form or another since the 1990s. Instead of slivers or sections on a pyramid, we now have a pie chart type of thing. Well, more like a Simon.

    So here's the question: Does the plate work better than the pyramid?
    Continue Reading

  • Challenge: Spot the mistakes in the figures

    April 13, 2011  |  Discussion

    During production of the 2011 USAID annual letter from Rajiv Shah, someone said to someone else, "We need to make this more visually appealing. Let's add some charts." The problem was that there wasn't much data to look at or report, and no one knew how to dig deeper. Plus — they had to sexify the letter in a hurry, so they settled for what's there now.

    Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to find the mistakes and to make suggestions on how to improve on what's there. Some figures clearly have a few oddities while others simply could've been improved with better design choices. Here's the letter and the same as a PDF. Can you figure out what's going on? Leave your findings in the comments. Godspeed.

  • Open thread: What data do you want to see visualized?

    March 17, 2011  |  Discussion

    There is so much data available and new data released every day, but not all of it is that interesting. Some is spotty and some doesn't make sense. However, there is also a lot of exciting data to play with. Have you come across any datasets or sources that you think would be great to see and explore visually?

  • Open thread: Charts during the State of the Union address

    January 26, 2011  |  Discussion, Mistaken Data

    Bubble chart during SOTU

    President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union address yesterday, and this year it was "enhanced" by charts and graphs. Basically, as Obama spoke, graphics that you could equate to Powerpoint slides showed up on the side. What'd you think of the enhancement? Did it add or detract from the message? Were the graphics used honestly and effectively?

    One thing's for sure: there's something wrong with that bubble chart. Uh oh.
    Continue Reading

  • Open thread: Is this map too confusing?

    January 18, 2011  |  Discussion, Mapping

    Reading, writing, and money

    This map, a collaboration between Good and Gregory Hubacek, shows three metrics from the most recent American Community Survey by the US Census: high school graduates, college graduates, and median household income. The goal was to see if there's a correlation between education and income. Does it work?
    Continue Reading

  • Open thread: What’s the difference between a visualization and an infographic?

    January 3, 2011  |  Discussion

    Interesting thread on Quora. I never gave it much thought, although I do have an infographics category, along with a few visualization categories. If I were to take a stab with a sentence I'd say: a visualization is the representation of data via geometry and math while infographics are a subset of visualization, where an actual human being had a hand in explaining the (hopefully interesting) points in the data in question.

    Your turn. Sound off in the comments below.

  • Open thread: How do you start working on a data graphic?

    November 4, 2010  |  Discussion

    People approach data in different ways, especially across different fields. When you're presented with a dataset that you have to convert to a graphic, what's the first thing that you do?

  • Discuss: Graphs on Old Spice YouTube campaign

    September 2, 2010  |  Discussion

    Old Spice YouTube campaign infographic

    I trust we've all seen the OldSpice YouTube campaign by now? This graphic from Know Your Meme categorizes videos by who they were directed to and how many views they received. For example, a video to Joe Blow would be in the low-profile category, while responses to Alyssa Milano go to the high-profile category.
    Continue Reading

  • Discuss: Driving is why you’re fat?

    August 18, 2010  |  Discussion, Infographics

    Obesity rates and exercise infographic

    In a collaboration between GOOD and Hyperakt, they come out with a bold statement: driving is why you're fat. They follow with a graphic that shows rankings by state for amount of driving, walking, biking, and use of mass transit.

    Each state is represented by a four-square grid, colored so that lighter indicates more physical activity. Each grid is complemented with a fat/skinny icon, which represents rank for obesity.

    I like how the grids are geographically-placed, but I'm not so sure about coloring by rank. Would it have been better to color by the actual metrics the ranks were based on? Does driving a lot really lead to obesity or do obese populations collectively prefer to drive more? Sound off with your constructive comments below.

  • Discuss: Why collect data about yourself?

    July 30, 2010  |  Discussion, Self-surveillance

    personal data feelings

    Personal data fascinates me. I collect data about myself mostly as a way to journal and document the present so that I can look back on it later - similar to how someone else might flip through an old photo album.

    In just about every interview I've read with Nicholas Felton, author of several personal annual reports, he's asked how the data, or rather the information from that data, has changed his behavior. For the most part, it doesn't. It's more of an interesting view into the past year for him.

    However, there are plenty of others who collect data in an effort to change their behavior in some way. They might be trying to lose weight or stay more disciplined with their exercise regimen.

    The Question

    So if you collect data about yourself, whether it be an automated system or with pen and paper, why do you do it? How long have the you been doing it? What do you track? Have you found anything interesting or surprising from your data?

    If you don't collect data, what's holding you back?

    Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

  • Challenge: What is a FIFA player’s worth?

    July 2, 2010  |  Discussion, Infographics

    What is a player's worth?

    I really want to like this graphic on the "worth" of FIFA players. The colors pop and the topic is potentially interesting. There are some graphics 101 pitfalls going on here though. How can you make this display better? Leave your two cents in the comments below.

    [via We Love Datavis]

  • Discuss: Powerpoint is the enemy?

    April 27, 2010  |  Discussion, Misc. Visualization

    Confusing PowerPoint

    In reference to the above, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, leader of the American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, joked during a meeting, "When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war." The rest of the NYT article goes on to describe the suck that is Powerpoint.

    Is Powerpoint really that bad though? I know we like to poke fun sometimes, but is it a limitation of the software, or is it users' lack of design skills? I mean there's a site dedicated to beautiful slide decks. Browse through those, and you start to think maybe it's the latter.

    So we have a chicken-and-the-egg problem. Do people just not know how to use Powerpoint or does Powerpoint push people to the bad side? Sound off in the comments below.

    [Thanks, Julia]

  • Discuss: Flowchart on drinkable water in the world

    April 1, 2010  |  Discussion

    March 22 was World Water Day, and TreeHugger posted this graphic on drinking water that is available in the world. The main point is that a very small percentage of water in the world is actually drinkable. It's definitely a story worth telling, but the graphic doesn't work at all. Even as a simple presentation of percentages (from UN-Water Statistics), it's confusing.

    How can we improve this graphic to tell the story more clearly? Discuss.

    [Thanks, Donald]

  • Challenge: make this graph easier to read

    February 25, 2010  |  Discussion, Statistical Visualization

    The Economist discusses the return of big government and includes this graph showing total government spending as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product. We see a dip in 2000 and a big jump this past year.

    The trouble is that the country labels are cluttered. If you read them left to right, you get mixed up initially. Keep your eyes left and move top to bottom, and you might be okay.

    The Challenge

    Can you think of a way to make this graph easier to read? Is there a better way to represent the time series?

    One catch: you have to work within the size limitation of 290 pixels wide and 300 pixels tall. It's an easy fix with unlimited space. But what can you do when space is scarce? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

    P.S. I was looking for the data this graph uses but got tired of using the OECD stat browser, so we'll just have to use our imagination for this one.

    [Thanks, Justin]

    Update: Here's GDP (sans spending) by country from 1995 to 2008 if anyone would like to take a wack [thanks, Kim].

  • Open thread: What visualization tutorials do you want to see?

    February 17, 2010  |  Discussion

    After the county map tutorial a few months ago, I decided to write more how-to posts. Since then, with the new tutorials, it's been great seeing the excitement over visualizing your own data. So now, a question for you.

    What visualization tutorials do you want to see next?

    Obviously I can't teach everything since I still have plenty to learn myself, but I'll be sure to give everything a try. Leave your suggestions in the comments below.

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