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55 posts
Superb tile map offering multiple avenues for exploration

Here's a beauty by WSJ Graphics: The article is here. This data graphic illustrates the power of the visual medium. The underlying dataset is complex: power production by type of source by state by month by year. That's more than 90,000 numbers. They all reside on this graphic. Readers amazingly make sense of all these numbers without much effort. It starts with the summary chart on top. The designer made...

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Start at zero, or start at wherever

Andrew's post about start-at-zero helps me refine my own thinking on this evergreen topic. The specific example he gave is this one: The dataset is a numeric variable (y) with values over time (x). The minimum numeric value is around 3 and the range of values is from around 3 to just above 20. His advice is "If zero is in the neighborhood, invite it in". (Link) The rule, as...

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Speaking to the choir

A friend found the following chart about the "carbon cycle", and sent me an exasperated note, having given up on figuring it out. The chart came from a report, and was reprinted in Ars Technica (link). The problem with the chart is that the designer is speaking to the choir. One must know a lot about the carbon cycle already to make sense of everything that's going on. We see...

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Surging gas prices

A reader finds this chart hard to parse: The chart shows the trend in gas prices in New York in the past two years. This is a case in which the simple line chart works very well. I added annotations as the reasons behind the decline and rise in prices are reasonably clear.  One should be careful when formatting dates. The legend of the original chart looks like this: In...

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Working hard at clarity

As I am preparing another blog post about the pandemic, I came across the following data graphic, recently produced by the CDC for a vaccine advisory board meeting: This is not an example of effective visual communications. *** For one thing, readers are directed to scour the footnotes to figure out what's going on. If we ignore those for the moment, we see clusters of bubbles that have remained pretty...

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Metaphors, maps, and communicating data

There are some data visualization that are obviously bad. But what makes them bad? Here is an example of such an effort: This visualization of carbon emissions is not successful. There is precious little that a reader can learn from this chart without expensing a lot of effort. It's relatively easy to identify the largest emitters of carbon but since the data are not expressed per-capita, the chart mainly informs...

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The time has arrived for cumulative charts

Long-time reader Scott S. asked me about this Washington Post chart that shows the disappearance of pediatric flu deaths in the U.S. this season: The dataset behind this chart is highly favorable to the designer, because the signal in the data is so strong. This is a good chart. The key point is shown clearly right at the top, with an informative title. Gridlines are very restrained. I'd draw attention...

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R graphics get modern text support, with ragg package

Thomas Lin Pedersen announced the ragg package, which makes font usage in R more straightforward: I’m extremely pleased to present the culmination of several years of work spanning the systemfonts, textshaping, and ragg packages. These releases complete our efforts to create a high-quality, performant raster graphics device that works the same way on every operating system. This blog post presents our improvements to ragg’s font rendering so that it now...

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Dreamy Hawaii

I really enjoyed this visual story by ProPublica and Honolulu Star-Advertiser about the plight of beaches in Hawaii (link). The story begins with a beautiful invitation: This design reminds me of Vimeo's old home page. (It no longer looks like this today but this screenshot came from when I was the data guy there.) In both cases, the images are not static but moving. The tour de force of this...

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Neural network creates images from text

OpenAI trained a neural network that they call DALL·E with a dataset of text and image pairs. So now the neural network can take text input and output random combinations of descriptors and objects, like a purse in the style of Rubik’s cube or a teapot imitating Pikachu. Tags: images, neural network, OpenAI, text

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