Design

1 posts
Four Cs of data and design

Ben Fry using the “tropiest of design tropes”, describes his goals for visualization. On communication: Communication is the most basic part: the table stakes of information design. If the piece doesn’t communicate, then it’s useless. A lot of time, attention, and effort goes into creating PDF documents that few people will ever read. In the past this was even more expensive, because the result was elegant printed reports that would...

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The Periodic Table, a challenge in information organization

Reader Chris P. points me to this article about the design of the Periodic Table. I then learned that 2019 is the “International Year of the Periodic Table,” according to the United Nations. Here is the canonical design of the Periodic Table that science students are familiar with. (Source: Wikipedia.) The Periodic Table is an exercise of information organization and display. It's about adding structure to over 100 elements, so...

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Help people find themselves in the data

Researchers went around rural Pennsylvania, showing people the charts above and asking what they thought about them. Evan Peck with one of the main findings from the study: As we analyzed and coded our interviews, we were reminded of something that we often forget — data can be intimate and personal. If someone found a personal connection to any graph, it didn’t matter the color, the style or the technique. For the...

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Story formats for data

Financial Times, in an effort to streamline a part of the data journalism process, developed templates for data stories. They call it the Story Playbook: The Playbook is also an important driver of culture change in the newsroom. We have a rich and familiar vocabulary for print: The basement (A sometimes light-hearted, 350-word story that sits below the fold on the front page), for example, or the Page 3 (a...

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Counting and illustrating Game of Thrones deaths

Shelly Tan, for The Washington Post, has been counting on-screen deaths in Game of Thrones over the past few years. As the season ended, Tan described her process in an entertaining Twitter thread: This graphic had a lot of numbers, so here are the final ones: – 5 years of working on this project– 6887 deaths– 290 character illustrations– Far too many hours of sleep lost And now, at the...

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Morphing small multiples to investigate Sri Lanka’s religions

Earlier this month, the bombs in Sri Lanka led to some data graphics in the media, educating us on the religious tensions within the island nation. I like this effort by Reuters using small multiples to show which religions are represented in which districts of Sri Lanka (lifted from their twitter feed): The key to reading this map is the top legend. From there, you'll notice that many of the...

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An exercise in decluttering

My friend Xan found the following chart by Pew hard to understand. Why is the chart so taxing to look at?  It's packing too much. I first notice the shaded areas. Shading usually signifies "look here". On this chart, the shading is highlighting the least important part of the data. Since the top line shows applicants and the bottom line admitted students, the shaded gap displays the rejections. The numbers...

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Exploring data to form better questions

Feeding off the words of John Tukey, Roger Peng proposes a search for better questions in analysis: The goal in this picture is to get to the upper right corner, where you have a high quality question and very strong evidence. In my experience, most people assume that they are starting in the bottom right corner, where the quality of the question is at its highest. In that case, the...

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Remaking charts from The Economist, by a journalist at The Economist

Sarah Leo, a visual journalist at The Economist, looked through the archives and found some charts that could use a re-design. After a deep dive into our archive, I found several instructive examples. I grouped our crimes against data visualisation into three categories: charts that are (1) misleading, (2) confusing and (3) failing to make a point. For each, I suggest an improved version that requires a similar amount of...

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Book Preview: How Charts Lie, by Alberto Cairo

If you’re like me, your first exposure to data visualization was as a consumer. You may have run across a pie chart, or a bar chart, perhaps in a newspaper or a textbook. Thanks to the power of the visual language, you got the message quickly, and moved on. Few of us learned how to create charts from first principles. No one taught us about axes, tick marks, gridlines, or...

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