Best Data Visualization Projects of 2018
Every year I choose my favorite visualization projects. Looking back at old picks over the decade, a part of me longs for a simpler, more playful time when data graphics were used to tell jokes and show neat things.
The other part of me sees visualization that matured over the years and developed into a medium rather than a form of commercial eye candy. There’s less focus on visualization the tool and more focus on how to use the tools. That’s a good thing.
Of course, there’s no reason we can’t have it all. Here are my picks for the best visualization projects of 2018, in no particular order.
Best Shine of Light
The Follower Factory
There are many reasons to like this New York Times project by Nicholas Confessore, Gabriel J.X. Dance, Richard Harris, and Mark Hansen. The analysis. The visuals. The change it forced on Twitter and social media in general. I liked it best for showing concretely what most people probably only had a hunch about, and thus making them care. [See the Project / On FlowingData]
Best Recreation of Vintage Data Graphics
There’s just something about vintage graphics that always draws me in. Maybe it’s the yellow-brown background. Nicholas Rougeux recreation of Byrne’s Euclide brought that vintage aroma along with modern updates. [See the Project / On FlowingData]
Best Scratching of an Itch
Women’s Pockets are Inferior
I like data projects that spawn from deep, everyday curiosities, but you know what’s better? Projects spurred by everyday annoyances. Jan Diehm and Amber Thomas for The Pudding attacked their pant pocket annoyance head-on. [See the Project / On FlowingData]
Best Use of Scale in Perspective
Here’s How America Uses Its Land
Compare something we’re unfamiliar with against something we are familiar with. It’s a common visual device to show the scale of things. I liked Dave Merrill and Lauren Leatherby take on showing land use. [See the Project / On FlowingData]
Best Use of Visual Metaphor
200 Years of U.S. Immigration Looks Like the Rings of a Tree
By Pedro M. Cruz, John Wihbey, Avni Ghael and Felipe Shibuya, this graphic showed a topic that we saw many times before but showed it under a new light. The tree ring metaphor shows a full history as well as the variation in between. [See the Project / On FlowingData]
Best Explanation of Nerdy Topic
It seems like ages ago since blockchain (Bitcoin especially) was in the general public’s ear. Maryanne Murray and team for Reuters gave me something I could point family members to. [See the Project / On FlowingData]
Best Map of Data that Looks Like a Physical Representation
Just Another Day on Aerosol Earth
Tim Meko and Aaron Steckelberg for The Washington Post used terrain height and color to represent rainfall in the United States. I wanted to reach out and touch my computer screen. [See the Project / On FlowingData]
Best Statistical Explainer
Model Tuning and the Bias-Variance Tradeoff
Machine learning is kind of thing now. Stephanie Yee and Tony Chu, in their second installment, explained how bias can easily creep into the “objective” computer’s algorithms. [See the Project / On FlowingData]
Best Weird Use of Machine Learning
Best Back-of-the-Napkin Math
Gender pay gap: when does your company stop paying women in 2018?
Best Straightforward Yet Effective
The Most Gender-Switched Names in US History
We use some names mostly for boys and some mostly for girls, but then there is a small percentage that, over time, switched from one gender to another. Which names made the biggest switch?
Toilet Paper Calculator
Maybe you’re starting to run low. Here’s how much you’ll need when you go to restock.