Summary Statistics Tell You Little About the Big Picture

Mean, median, and mode. These are the first things you learn about in your introductory statistics course. It’s often all you hear about when you see data in the news. People form policies for populations, based on the generalized numbers.

However, these summary statistics can only tell you so much about a dataset, which means you can only learn a limited amount about what the data represents — the people, places, and things.

If you’re the one who consumes the data, you should wonder what the means and medians actually represent. If you’re the one who analyzes the data, spend time with the most granular that time and resources allow for. Something more interesting will almost always come out of it.

Become a member. Support an independent site. Make great charts.

See What You Get

Learn to Visualize Data See All →

An Easy Way to Make a Treemap

If your data is a hierarchy, a treemap is a good way to show all the values at once and keep the structure in the visual. This is a quick way to make a treemap in R.

How to Make a State Grid Map in R

Something of a cross between a reference table and a map, the state grid provides equal space to each state and a semblance of the country to quickly pick out individual states.

How to Make a State Map Grid with Small Multiples in R

Combining small multiples with the grid layout can make for an intuitive geographic reference.

How to Make a Smoother Animated Growth Map in R

Show change over time and geography with smooth transitions.


The Best Data Visualization Projects of 2011

I almost didn’t make a best-of list this year, but …

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.

How You Will Die

So far we’ve seen when you will die and how other people tend to die. Now let’s put the two together to see how and when you will die, given your sex, race, and age.

Air Quality Mapped Over Time

With wildfires burning in the western United States, smoke fills the air. This is an animation of the air quality during the past couple of months.