• Fun With Words that Collectively Make Pictures

    January 19, 2009  |  Data Art

    People have fallen in love with word clouds that make pictures. Zoom in and you see a bunch of individual words. Zoom out and you see a famous person's face. It is a dictionary or a portrait? Mystical. TBWA/Chiat/Day, an advertising agency in Nashville, Tennessee of all places, brings the concept to promotion for the 2009 Grammy Awards - in animated form. Float through the cloud of songs and lo and behold, it's Stevie Wonder.

    It's only a matter of time until someone creates the next version of Wordle. Let people upload a picture and some words and then charge people a few bucks for a printed poster. It'd be a huge hit. It's the perfect gift I tells ya. I'm looking at you, Jeff. We need to talk.

    [via uncovering data]

  • Dopplr Presents Personal Travel Report to All Users

    January 16, 2009  |  Infographics

    dopplr

    Dopplr is a service that lets you share your travel schedule with friends and then highlights times when you and your friends will be in the same place. For example, if you're traveling to Las Vegas in December, Dopplr will tell you if any of your friends are going too. OK. So yesterday Dopplr started sending out "Personal Annual Reports" to all of its users. The report shows what friends your travels coincided most with, where you traveled, how you traveled, and your carbon for 2008. What a great idea.

    Above is a report for Barack Obama. It should surprise nobody that Joe Biden tops the list on who Obama most coincided with, and then John McCain follows in a close a second.

    [Thanks, William and Tim]

  • 2008 Feltron Annual Report Now Available

    January 13, 2009  |  Infographics, Self-surveillance

    Feltron Report

    After Nicholas Felton's ever popular 2005, 2006 and 2007 annual report on himself, you knew this was coming. The 2008 Feltron Annual Report is now up for your viewing pleasure. There's a lot more mapping, data, and pages this time around.
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  • Ford Turns to Design and Data Visualization to Boost Sales

    January 13, 2009  |  Infographics

    1208_fusion_hybrid

    Ford sales are suffering. In an attempt to improve, they're going green with hybrid vehicles, and in doing so, had to shift their design. In their initial studies with IDEO, the Palo Alto-based design group, they found that drivers who were interested in fuel efficiency were "playing a game." Getting more miles to the gallon was like earning points. With that in mind, Ford worked with Smart Design to create a high-resolution LCD dashboard to show drivers how efficiently they drive.

    In order to play into the research finding that drivers are looking for a high score when it comes to fuel efficiency, one high-resolution LCD screen on the dash features an eye-catching rendering of curling vines blooming with green leaves. It's more than a decorative element; it's a data-visualization tool intended to change the way people drive. If a driver wastes gas by aggressively accelerating or slamming on the brakes, for example, the vine withers and leaves disappear. More leaves appear if individuals drive more economically. The system will be standard on all new Fusion Hybrids, which will start at about $27,000.

    There's still another 6 months until we see the results of this design shift, but what do you think of this futuristic-looking dashboard?

    [via BusinessWeek | Thanks, Alastair]

  • Tools You Need to Track Energy Consumption – WattzOn

    January 12, 2009  |  Infographics, Online Applications

    wattzon

    "Climate change is a global problem. But it's individuals who will create the solution." This is the WattzOn premise.
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  • Browser Wars – A New Take on Streamgraphs

    January 9, 2009  |  Infographics

    browserwars

    Because it's Friday - PixelLabs puts a cartoon-ish spin on streamgraphs. Who will win??

    [Thanks, @prblog]

  • Animated Map Shows One Year of Edits to OpenStreetMap

    January 8, 2009  |  Mapping

    open-street-map-edits

    I admit it. I'm a sucker for animated maps - especially when there's music playing in the back. I'm not exactly sure what it is about them. It's data visualization over time and virtual (or physical?) space fast forwarded and rewound. It's like I'm a supreme being looking at changes over time, peering down from above. It's intuitive. It's very visually linked with the real world, and that's probably why I chose Britain From Above as the best visualization of 2008.

    ANYWAYS, check out this animation by ITO that shows the edits to OpenStreetMap, a wiki-style map of the world, over the last year.

    Find high resolution pics at the Flickr photo pool.

    [via visual complexity]

  • Visual Guide to General Motors’ Financial Woes

    January 5, 2009  |  Infographics

    As you've probably heard, General Motors has come on some financial troubles and grows increasingly desperate for a federal bailout. How did the American vehicle giant get to this point? Will the bailout do any good?
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  • Graphs Lead to Decline in Love

    January 2, 2009  |  Visualization

    decline

    Coincidence. Absolutely. Lisa Simpson agrees. Have a good weekend all.

    [via xkcd | Thanks, Steve]

  • 9 Ways to Visualize Consumer Spending

    consumer_spending

    GOOD Magazine's most recent infographic (above and below) on consumer spending got me to thinking about all the other approaches I've seen on the same topic. The number of ways to attack a dataset never ceases to amaze me, so I dug a little. Yeah, there are a bunch - but here are some of the good ones. Got some more? Leave a link in the comments.
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  • Researchers Map Chaos Inside Cancer Cell

    December 29, 2008  |  Network Visualization

    cancer-cell

    The thing about cancer cells is that they suck. Their DNA is all screwy. They've got chunks of DNA ripped out and reinserted into different places, which is just plain bad news for the cells in our body that play nice. You know, kind of like life. Researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston have compared the DNA of a certain type of breast cancer cell to a normal cell and mapped the differences (and similarities) with the above visualization.

    The graphic summarizes their results. Round the outer ring are shown the 23 chromosomes of the human genome. The lines in blue, in the third ring, show internal rearrangements, in which a stretch of DNA has been moved from one site to another within the same chromosome. The red lines, in the bull's eye, designate switches of DNA from one chromosome to another.

    Some design would benefit the graphic so that your eyes don't bounce around when you look at the technicolor genome but it's interesting nevertheless.

    Check out the Flare Visualization Toolkit or Circos if you're interested in implementing a similar visualization with the above network technique.

    [Thanks, Robert]

  • Budweiser Maps Drinkabilty of Bud Light Beer

    December 28, 2008  |  Mapping

    Yes, watered down and flavorless beer has high drinkability. You know, sort of like water. The difference is shade of yellow.

  • Urban Heartbeat of European Cities – Urban Mobs

    December 22, 2008  |  Mapping

    During major events, people use their mobile phones to share their emotions: the euphoria of a football match in Spain or Romania, World Music Day in France, or Saint John's night in Poland. We want to share our excitement, so we call up our close friends and family. Urban Mobs allows us to see this activity in four major European cities - this "urban heartbeat" so to speak.

    So when is someone going to do something for the United States?

    [Thanks, @MacDivaONA]

  • Because It’s Friday

    December 19, 2008  |  Mapping

    Have a good weekend all. I'll be getting buried in the expected 12 inches of snow here in Buffalo in the meantime :).

    [via superpoop | Thanks, Georgina and @tarheelcoxn]

  • 5 Best Data Visualization Projects of the Year

    December 19, 2008  |  Visualization

    Data visualization continues to grow online and in the real world. It exists as masterful art pieces and amazingly useful analysis tools. In both cases though it brings data -- which is oftentimes cryptic -- to the masses and shows that data is more than a bucket of numbers. Data is interesting. As we collect more and more data about ourselves and our surroundings, the data and the visualization will only get more interesting. On that note, I give you FlowingData's picks for the top 5 data visualization projects of 2008. Visualizations were judged based on the use of data, aesthetics, overall effect on the visualization arena, and how well they told a story.

    Honorable Mention: Wordle

    Wordle, by Jonathan Feinberg, is the word cloud revamped. Wordle caught on like wildfire across the Web as people were putting in their RSS/Atom feeds, cutting and pasting snippets, and visualizing presidential speeches. It was even added to the Many Eyes visualization toolbox. It's hard to say what exactly made Wordle so popular, but I think it was a mix of randomness, aesthetics, and customization options.

    5. Decision Tree: The Obama-Clinton Divide

    Amanda Cox of The New York Times has a knack for creating excellent graphics. She managed to make regression trees interesting and spark some heated debate with her Obama-Clinton graphic. I would also like to note that Amanda has, yes, a statistics degree. Excuse me while I beam with pride.

    4. Radiohead "House of Cards" Music Video

    The Radiohead "House of Cards" music video was a bit different in that no cameras were used to "film" it. Instead, they used a rotating scanner and lasers to collect 3D data. What you see in the music video (below) is a visualization of all that data. The group behind the video also made the data freely available, which is icing on the cake. You don't have to be a Radiohead fan to appreciate that.

    3. Last.fm and Movie Box Office Streamgraphs

    Lee Byron was certainly on to something when he created Streamgraphs to visualize music listening history on last.fm. They are a variant of stacked graphs and an improvement on Havre et al.'s ThemeRiver in the way the baseline is chosen, layer ordering, and color choice. In February 2008, Amanda Cox (yes, again), Matthew Bloch, and Shan Carter of The New York Times, together with Lee, used a similar technique to show the ebb and flow of box office receipts for 7,500 movies over 21 years. Discussion burst out across the Web -- about the technique and what people were seeing in the data -- that I am convinced would not have come about if instead of a Streamgraph, they used say, a stacked bar chart.

    Read more about the Streamgraph in Lee Byron and Martin Wattenberg's paper: Stacked Graphs - Geometry & Aesthetics.

    2. I Want You to Want Me

    I Want You to Want Me was commissioned by New York's Museum of Modern Art and created by Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar, who you probably know from past projects, We Feel Fine and Lovelines. The two are best known for the ability to tell stories with data, and it shows in IWYTWM, which explores the world of online dating. Individuals float in balloons hoping to find their match.

    Here's the video, so you can more fully appreciate the work:

    This blend of art, computer science, and mathematics is beautiful.

    1. Britain From Above

    When I first caught a glimpse of a clip from Britain from Above, I was immediately impressed, and it only left me wanting more. It was a special series on the BBC with beautiful visuals produced by 422 South. GPS traces from taxi cabs and airline flights scurried to locations; telephone communications glowed in the sky; ground lights twinkled as if the roles of sky and earth were switched; and internet traffic burst from computer to computer. With all that data on display, patterns emerged - zero air traffic in no-fly zones and taxis taking alternate routes to avoid heavy traffic.

    At the time, the videos weren't available to the U.S., but they are now, and the BBC has posted them on YouTube as well. Pretty lights:

    There you have it - FlowingData's top 5 data visualizations for 2008. It's going to be interesting to see what comes out in 2009. Now it's your turn. What's on your list?

  • Visualize Music Collections With MusicBox

    December 18, 2008  |  Visualization

    musicbox

    The great thing about being a graduate student is that you get to experiment. Anita Lillie, from the MIT Media Lab, demos MusicBox, her master's thesis project that visualizes and maps music collections based on songs' acoustic features. As might be expected, she uses principle components analysis to arrange songs. Each dot represents a song. If two songs sound similar, they should appear close to each other. As an example, the above dots are colored by music genre. Rap songs appear on the left in red while classical appears on the right.

    As an aside, Anita's project reminds me a lot of a GGobi demo by Di Cook. She used the tuneR library in R to quantify Beatles songs and then used GGobi to do something similar to MusicBox. R and GGobi are free to use, so if you're interested in visualizing your own music library, you might want to check them out.

    [via TechCrunch]

  • Sculptural Data Visualization – Stock Market and GDP

    December 17, 2008  |  Data Art

    anfischer_fundament_1

    In his latest data sculptures, Andreas Nicolas Fischer places data visualization in a physical space when we're so used to seeing it on a computer monitor. Above is a piece of two layers - the bottom is gross domestic product for 2007 (made of plywood) and the top maps "the derivatives volume, alloted to the coordinates of the countries on a map." I don't know what derivatives volume and I probably should, but I'm too lazy to look it up (a lil' help please?).
    Continue Reading

  • Winner of Tufte Books and Many Other Good Entries

    December 11, 2008  |  Contests, Statistical Visualization

    I ran a contest last week to improve a graph from Swivel that showed immigration to the United States. FlowingData readers sent in lots of different approaches (that took me forever to get organized for this post), and I still stand by my statement that there's always more than one way to skin a dataset.
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  • What Jobs Are There in Data Visualization?

    December 10, 2008  |  Visualization

    I got an email from Harald asking, "How does the job market for DV developers work?" I find this question, or some variation of it, in my inbox every now and then, so I thought I'd give it a shot. I am after all a graduate student who will graduate eventually, so let's take a look at some of the options. I'd like to expand on the question though, and not just focus on developers. What's the job market like for anyone who wants to do data visualization for a living?

    In the News

    Infographics in the news have been commonplace for a while now. Maps, charts, graphs, plots, etc. are in the newspaper every day, and as news on the Web continues to expand, so do the types of interactive visualizations. In fact The New York Times has its own graphics department as well as a group dedicated to online interactives. It's only a matter of time before the other big news organizations follow suit (unless they go bankrupt first).

    Examples: The New York Times / MSNBC / Washington Post

    Design Studios

    There are a lot of data visualization specialists who masquerade as graphic designers. As a result, there are lots of design studios that do data visualization (although they don't focus on just that alone) that do work for the Web or a slew of other things like company branding, physical installations, or simply art pieces. I can only think of a handful of design groups that are specifically known for data visualization. Either way though, most stuff that the studios push out are more on the artistic end of things, naturally.

    Examples: Stamen Design / Bestiario

    Analytics Groups

    Analytics is on the opposite site of the spectrum. It's all about decision-making. Businesses are starting to rack up terabytes of data per day, but aren't sure what to do with it. Basic Microsoft Excel skills will only take you so far. You'll also hear about dashboards pretty often. Think lots of graphs and lots of charts and lots of data which takes a certain statistical expertise to manage effectively.

    Example: Juice Analytics / Axis Maps

    Research Labs

    While the analytics groups tend to be more about application of existing visualization techniques, there are research labs that primarily think of ways to improve the existing or new representations of data. They design, experiment, analyze, and then write papers. It's like getting paid to be a graduate student, I imagine. Visualization software companies not dissimilar to FlowingData sponsors might also be bundled into this group.

    I visited AT&T research labs a few months ago, and there was a small group focused on the best way to show network graphs. The IBM Visual Communications Lab does a lot with social data analysis.

    Examples: AT&T Labs / IBM Visual Communications Lab

    Academics

    This one is sort of obvious I guess. Academics is similar to working in a research lab, and really, a lot of academic groups call themselves a research lab anyways. Often you'll see collaboration between the two. The only difference is, uh, professors have to put up with graduate students like me. Tough nookies.

    Examples: Berkeley Visualization Lab / MIT Media Lab

    Freelancing

    A lot of businesses aren't looking for a full-time visualization person. They just need some help with things here and there. There are also a lot of online developments that can benefit from having some visualization. Some have already got developers, but want some aesthetics, while others might have a specific data set that they want realized - might be just for show or actually something quantitative. There's certainly a wide variety out there.

    Examples: Daniel McLaren / Moritz Stefaner / Jon Peltier

    What About You?

    That covers a good bit, but I'm almost certain that I've missed something. If your expertise is data visualization, what do you do for money? I, among many others, would be interested to know in the comments.

  • Navigate Articles, Photos, and Video from Around the Globe

    December 9, 2008  |  Mapping

    The Washington Post recently put up TimeSpace: World, which is an interactive map that shows articles, video, photos, and commentary as they happen around the world (through the Washington Post's eyes). Similar to Trulia Snapshot, by Stamen Design, news items are arranged with a force-directed graph and can be filtered by time with a timeline at the bottom. Adjust time range to find news stories from a given time of day. You get a breakdown of number of images, articles, etc. Photos seem to dominate. Here is the embedded version (which seems a little buggy):

    One thing that I really liked about Trulia Snapshot, which isn't included as a part of TimeSpace: World is a play button. It'd be like watching the news unfold over time - or even better, make TimeSpace self-updating. Maybe in the next iteration.

    [Thanks, Steven]

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