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

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.


  • These are great how-tos, especially the recent tree-mapping post.

    Anything that’s geared toward beginners (I’m a data researcher with tons of print background, but little programming or graphics experience) trying my hand at designing visualizations for the paper – trying to get beyond pie charts and static maps.


  • StreamGraphs (modified stacked line graphs), such as:

    Here’s the white paper, if that helps:

    Maybe this is a little too involved, but if you could do this in R that would be quite amazing. Lee Byron uses Processing ( Thanks for the other tutorials. They have been very insightful.

  • Guilherme Boettcher February 17, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    I’d really love to see some positioning, sizing and animating tutorials covering algorithms to better rotate and translate items in order to fill up more space in your visualizations, how to scale different types of objects to convey some sort of meaning and finally how to make smooth transitions between positions or views.

    Thanks in advance, Nathan =)

  • How about simple weighted tag clouds?

  • some basic data tools to enhance how we show student data to staff

  • I’d like to see one that takes tools like ScapeToad ( ) to do things like transform maps using data… for example, taking a map like this ( ) and turning it into this ( ).

  • Joshua Muskovitz February 17, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    My wife is learning “R” for her doctorate-level stats classes. I’d love to be able to pass on more cool samples to her.

  • We seem to have more access to government data than ever through and I’m really inspired to try experimenting with these, but I guess the idea of so much accessible data is intimidating for me.

    I would love a tutorial that dips a toe into this government data. I know the process for visualizing it is the same as it is for other data, but it would be more fun to try this in a group setting.

    Thanks for reaching out to readers. It’s one of the reasons why I enjoy your blog so much.

  • No offense, but I wouldn’t. I really like just seeing the stuff that you guys currently produce and aggregate, and I feel like branching out too much wouldn’t be a good idea.

    • @Rob – point taken, and trust me, i’m not going to change flowingdata into a tutorial site any time soon. I know a lot of people, me included, wonder how this stuff gets made though, so i think it’s good to point them in the right direction.

      • but we have found your tutorials really helpful, how about if you have a separate section/subdomain detailing some of the howtos for newbies who are looking into entering this field? thanks!

    • Rob…if you are like me and you have piles of data laying around and you see cool visualizations here, there is a really strong urge to create them with your own data. Especially if it is relatively simple.

  • I’d like to see a tutorial about how to integrate R with a webserver to dynamically produce graphics with calls to the R component of the server.

  • Sparklines would be great! (Using R if possible)

  • I’d like to see a tutorial that takes a large dataset and uncovers relationships within it. Stuff similar to the network map you created for your.flowingdata.

    • I second a tutorial on network maps. I am interested in something simple. For example, a map showing flows between pairs of geographies (nodes). In my mind it looks like a combination of the bible image of the colored arcs representing paths (possibly with the width weighted for volume) superimposed on a map (maybe from an ESRI shapefile?).

      fyi Nathan, I used the treemap tutorial to create a couple maps. Besides being popular with coworkers, the visualizations generated quite a bit of discussion that did not happen when I showed them the same results in a spreadsheet a few weeks back. Thanks!

  • parallel coordinate plots or stream graphs and such in a simple programming environment (with R or any nice API)

  • I have to say that a excel “best practice vba for visualizations” would be fantastic from a technical perspective.

  • I’d love to know how to take student school data (ex: SAT scores) and map them out to see if it shows the high socio-economic areas coorelation

  • R would be great and/or Tableau Public! I just downloaded it this week and will start playing soon…

  • I’d like to see more basic example graphics and tutorials on how they were created. I loved the R/Treemap and would like to see the same thing for all graphics. This isn’t my day job; I need results and this delivers!

    I’d love to see a contest where a data set is provided and the best graphic wins for simplest to create/best, best with free tools, and best overall.

    I’d like to see for each tool what can be done.

  • Oh – and I’d love to see a public good section where the best public good graphic is awarded. This is a graphic that promotes a good cause or investigative research that isn’t a paid gig. Perhaps the award could be a new graphics tool so that they can do more.

  • Love to see “Growth of Walmart” as tutorial.

  • Parallel coordinates plot please.

  • wow, that’s an impressive list of topics!
    maybe more tips to find and process large datasets could be nice. you touch upon that subject in your countymap tutorial where you used beautifulsoup. when visualizing data, getting data – and getting it in the right shape and size – is often the least glamorous but most difficult part of the problem :)

  • As a data-driven teacher, I’d love to see a tutorial on analyzing student achievement data. Perhaps something on easy ways to visualize attendance trends or standardized test data.

  • I’d like to figure out how to get data out of SPSS and into free tools. There are PSPP and Gretl for the raw data, but I’m having trouble getting the data definitions into a relational table of their own. In general, “closed 2 open” would be a great tutorial series.

    Also statistics for people who never took a statistics class would be nice, or at least links to that end.

    Thanks! I really dig your blog.