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51 posts
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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Is this an example of good or bad dataviz?

This chart is giving me feelings: I first saw it on TV and then a reader submitted it. Let's apply a Trifecta Checkup to the chart. Starting at the Q corner, I can say the question it's addressing is clear and relevant. It's the relationship between Trump and McConnell's re-election. The designer's intended message comes through strongly - the chart offers evidence that McConnell owes his re-election to Trump. Visually,...

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Aligning the visual and the data

The Washington Post reported a surge in donations to the Democrats after the death of Justice Ruth Ginsberg (link). A secondary effect, perhaps unexpected, was that donors decided to spread the money around; the proportion of donors who gave to six or more candidates jumped to 65%, where normally it is at 5%. The text tells us what to look for, and the axis labels are commendably restrained. The color...

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Book Review: Visualizing with Text by Richard Barth

The creative process is sometimes described in terms of diverge-converge cycles. The diverge step involves experimentation and rewards suspending disbelief, while excesses are curbed and concepts refined during the converge step. Richard Brath's just-released book Visualizing with Text is an important resource that expands our appreciation for the place of text in visual displays. Books on data visualization fall into recognizable types, of which two popular ones are the style...

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Making better pie charts if you must

I saw this chart on an NYU marketing twitter account: The graphical design is not easy on our eyes. It's just hard to read for various reasons. The headline sounds like a subject line from an email. The subheaders are long, and differ only by a single word. Even if one prefers pie charts, they can be improved by following a few guidelines. First, start the first sector at the...

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Why you should expunge the defaults from Excel or (insert your favorite graphing program)

Yesterday, I posted the following chart in the post about Cornell's Covid-19 case rate after re-opening for in-person instruction. This is an edited version of the chart used in Peter Frazier's presentation. The original chart carries with it the burden of Excel defaults. What did I change and why? I switched away from the default color scheme, which ignores the relationships between the two lines. In particular, the key comparison...

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A testing mess: one chart, four numbers, four colors, three titles, wrong units, wrong data

Twitterstan wanted to vote the following infographic off the island: (The publisher's website is here but I can't find a direct link to this graphic.) The mishap is particularly galling given the controversy swirling around this year's A-Level results in the U.K. For U.S. readers, you can think of A-Levels as SAT Subject Tests, which in the U.K. are required of all university applicants, and represent the most important, if...

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