Category Archives: Data Visualization

2014-06B: From Around The Web: 5 Next Steps For Data Visualization | Blog

Not sure this is new news (see article at bottom of this post), but good to see it being articulated.

I would say the trends outlined below are already happening.  There is, however still a gap between the three dimensions of data visualization production:

  • The tools with many templates (Excel/Tableau) are not very creative,
  • The creative tools (Photoshop, Illustrator) are not able to change and adjust with new data / updated dated, and
  • Programming tools still have a bit of a learning curve for artists and others to get on board.

The one hope is with parameter based tools, such as NodeBox or this proof of concept from Brett Victor (and from which I borrowed the above articulation of the 3 dimensions).

Article Link: 5 Next Steps For Data Visualization | Blog.

2013-07: An Amazing Blog Post on Dating (not mine)

Another short post.  I recently came across this blog post, and was floored by it!

Take a read: http://blog.okcupid.com/index.php/2010/02/16/the-case-for-an-older-woman/

Quick points of why I liked it (beyond the content)

  1. Extremely well written: I really like the style, and hope to get to that point one day
  2. Deep research on one data set: I was floored by how many different insights Christian was able to pull together from one massive data set. What’s even more amazing was how predictable the groups are.  Sure, there are issues of bias, but that’s fine, it’s part of the point.
  3. Use of Data Visualization: A very nice use of data visualization and different styles of data visualization to build the case.  I particularly liked the scroll based line-graphs where you can choose the different age and see how the lines change.
This was such a pleasure to read and study.  I hope you enjoy it too!

More is less… too much of a good thing…

Infographics are everywhere…

At first we had some great examples of infographics. Graphics that communicated information (message, question, data) to an audience.  What distinguished some of the leading infographics was their ability to provide a tremendous amount of insights and inspire thinking.  One of the most talked about and best examples of infographics was Charles Minard’s Napoleon’s March which described the march (and subsequent retreat) of Napoleon’s army towards Moscow in the winter of 1812-1813.

Minard’s Napoleon’s March

(Image above from Edward Tufte Poster Library – get your own!).  There are many distinguishing characteristics for this infographic, but in my opinion the most important characteristics is it’s ability to show a number of dimensions (geography, army size & split, time, weather) in a compelling way so that the audience can insights quickly (the army was wiped out), while being able to focus on some of the details.  This can become the starting point for a lot of conversations and discussion about what happened, and what can be learned.

Fast forward to 2008-2010… We’re now seeing so many infographics, to the point of gimmickry.  I present to you one such example from Gigaom

Gigaom Infographic

(UPDATE 2013-01-19 – I’ve been told the link no longer works consistently, I’ve updated with a link from the Wayback Machine)

What we see here, is essentially an abuse of typography to put information in a graphic, and really there are only three charts that considered to be part of an information graphic.  This is really a missed opportunity, and actually does not convey any information that could not be conveyed through text and a couple of charts.  So the primary value that this infographic provides is the graphic design (whose quality can be debated).

There’s a broader issue here.  We are seeing history repeat itself.  The same thing that happened with Powerpoint (much has been written about this).  The reduction in software cost (or at least availability of lower cost software), coupled with more power in our devices, is making is easier and easier for anyone to make graphic and claim that they are infographics, and thus potentially failing to actually inform with their graphics.