Time for a break…

After 11 months and two weeks of almost unbroken work, I’ve cleared things with the boss and tomorrow I will be going on holiday. It will be great to get away, lap up the sun and just exist in splendid, quiet isolation for a couple of weeks in order to fully recharge the batteries…

I’ve dry-cleaned my suit, ironed my handkerchief, picked out a smart tie, plumped up my best hat and am pretty much ready for off…

So, unless something dramatic (within the parameters of what we’d call dramatic anyway) happens between now and 8am tomorrow, this will be the last post for a while.

I will try not to look at emails whilst I am away so if you do send something, please don’t be surprised if you have a bit of a wait for my reply. That includes you spammers – I won’t be signing up for any more of your questionable products for the next 2 weeks. Nor will I be acknowledging any of you scatter-gunning, ‘Dear Webmaster’/’Dear Kirk’ infographic merchants, save your energy.

Strangely this happens to be my 300th post so I would like to take the opportunity to thank literally every single person who has visited the site over those 300 ramblings. Let’s pretend we’ve all got a drink in our hands,… cheers!

Lots of good things going on with the site from mid/late summer onwards, so thanks for the fantastic support and long may it continue.

For now, over and out.

Register your location for my next training schedule!

Those of you who visit the site regularly and follow my tweets will know that I’ve been busy on my Spring training schedule and this continues into the next couple of months with numerous public and private training events lined up.

Whilst the schedule is packed for the immediate future, I now want to put out a new call out for people to register their locations of interest for the latter half of 2012 and probably the early months of 2013.

Where in the world should I take my training next? You tell me.


Current Public Schedule

I still have a decent number spaces available on my courses in TorontoEdinburgh and Amsterdam. Bristol is sold out and Chicago is nearly full so act now if you wish to book your place. All events now have confirmed venue details, just click on the appropriate link to find out more information.

Chicago Fri, 15th June, 2012 Event details
Toronto Mon, 18th June, 2012 Event details
Bristol Fri, 29th June 2012 Event details
Edinburgh Fri, 6th July 2012 Event details
Amsterdam Fri, 13th July 2012 Event details

If you want to learn more about the objectives, content and coverage of these events, please visit my dedicated training page for more information.

If you still need more convincing I have set up a collection of testimonials from recent delegates who will hopefully present some compelling reasons to attend!


Future Events

I am now looking to arrange my next schedule for late 2012 and early 2013 with events around the UK, Ireland, Europe, North America and hopefully beyond. This is your chance to influence where I go. I will arrange sessions according to the level of interest received so just get in touch to tell me about your preferred town, city or country event. I will log your interest and keep you posted about if or when I am likely to bring my training roadshow to your area.

If you have already registered your interest for an area in the past, I have kept a record of this and will note your location along with other demand.

Finally, here is a reminder of the locations and events I have run in the past to get a sense of which parts of the world have already benefited from a course.

Leeds Fri, 4th November 2011
London Thu, 17th November 2011
Brighton Fri, 18th November 2011
Derry Thu, 26th January 2012
London Thu, 9th February 2012
Copenhagen Thu, 8th March 2012
Copenhagen Fri, 9th March 2012
London Thu, 26th April 2012
New York City Fri, 11th May 2012
Washington Mon, 14th May, 2012
Baltimore Wed 16th May, 2012

Chicago data visualisation meetup

Just a quick announcement to share that I’m going to be presenting at the inaugural meetup of the Chicago Data Visualization Group on Thursday 14th June from around 6:00pm.

The location details are still be confirmed but as soon as they are, I’ll update this post or you can see information on the Meetup page.

If you’re in the Chicago area (or even beyond) and want to hear me ramble on for an hour or so, it will be great to see you. If you are indifferent to my star quality there will be plenty of other interesting people there to mix with!

Here’s a sneak preview of the talk…

The 8 Hats of Data Visualization – The nature of data visualization as a truly multi-disciplinary subject introduces many challenges to those wishing to achieve mastery. You might be a creative but how are your analytical skills? Good at closing out a design but how about the initial research and data sourcing? In this talk we will learn about the many different ‘hats’ a visualization designer needs to wear in order to effectively deliver against these demands. Whether a single person will fulfill these roles, or a team collaboration will be set up to cover all bases, this presentation will help you understand the duty requirements of any visualization problem context.

The fine line between plagiarism and inspiration

The issue of plagiarism vs. inspiration is not a new topic, it has been with us for years and is the fundamental basis of copyright and IP, but it is an increasingly important consideration for us in the visualisation field.

This came up at my data visualisation training event in Washington DC last week. I’m not going to focus on the specific case that was being discussed because I don’t want to put the attention unnecessarily on the person in question but I think it is an issue worth exploring and discussing, because I’m not sure what the right call is.

Recently, Alberto Cairo wrote a great piece about this matter in relation to an information graphic published in the newspaper ‘O Estado De S.Paulo’ and then allegedly copied a few days later and published in ‘La Stampa’.

In information graphics, with its greater scope for inclusion of illustrations and non-visualisation elements, there is arguably a broader range of potential creative solutions than there are with visualisation. So when you see the same thing twice, there is something more inherently blatant, especially when there are no acknowledgements, as in the example below where the New York Time’s piece is almost exactly repeated in the Danish Berlingske publication.

Furthermore, during the judging process at Malofiej 20, there were a number of examples where you could clearly see a large amount of design reference to other pieces (some present in the awards contest, others not) but without any acknowledgement. Some, like the above were almost straight copies and only with the intervention of those who had seen previous, similar works were we able to root out the offending pieces from the medal reckoning.

Returning specifically to data visualisation. As new and innovative ways of representing data are conceived and as the field expands more and more in terms of participation, there will naturally be a great deal of inspiration going on. As people see new methods being adopted, allowing them an escape route away from the ubiquity of the bar and pie charts, there is a risk that some of this inspiration could be perceived as plagiarism.

The first thing, of course, is to consider including an acknowledgement and this will largely take the sting out of any potential situation and may even be seen be the originator of that method as a positive recognition.

But for how long should we need to maintain these acknowledgements? Where is the line drawn after which it is fine to just go ahead and pursue a method that was once rare but now is increasingly common?

Let’s take an extreme example. It is generally accepted that William Playfair was the first to conceive and utilise the bar chart, but how many of us acknowledge Playfair in our work whenever we use the dashboard. None of us, of course we don’t.

Yet, if I churned out a piece today that drew inspiration from the OECD Better Life Index’s floral design, a work that has only been around for the past year, I would and should acknowledge those who were behind it.

But what about those in-between? The Treemap? The Streamgraph?

What are the most appropriate and sustainable guidelines for this particular branch of design ethics that we can all agree on and practice. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below…

Manuel Lima’s talk: ‘The Power of Networks’

Those of you who have watched the video footage from the recent SEE conference may have seen Manuel Lima’s talk on the ‘The Power of Networks: Knowledge in an age of infinite interconnectedness’. Manuel is a Senior UX Design Lead at Microsoft Bing, founder of VisualComplexity.com and author of the Visual Complexity book.

However, this isn’t the first time he has delivered this talk, having previously presented at the Royal Society of Arts (London) in December 2011. Today, Manuel has shared a wonderful animated version of this December presentation which has been chosen to be part of the RSA Animated series, where the contents of 14 key speeches and books have converted into beautifully hand-drawn 10-minute animations. The illustrations have been created by the talented people from Cognitive Media.

Here is the background to the talk:

[Manuel Lima] visits the RSA to explore a critical paradigm shift in various areas of knowledge, as we stop relying on hierarchical tree structures and turn instead to networks in order to properly map the inherent complexities of our modern world. The talk will showcase a variety of captivating examples of visualization and also introduce the network topology as a new cultural meme.

If you want prefer to look through original slideshow, visit slideshare.

Quadrigram: New visual programming environment launches

In recent months we’ve seen a number of new developments on the tools side of the visualisation field. We’ve had Datawrapper, the Miso project and are still waiting in anticipation for the releases of polychart and plot.io. Today sees the launch of Quadrigram, a ‘Visual Programming Environment to gather, shape, and share living data’.

Quadrigram is a paid-for tool designed to enable everyone who works with data, regardless of their technical, programming capabilities, to create powerful, flexible and custom visualisations. For those of you out there looking to go beyond the bar chart/Excel this should interest you. There is a trial version to get your hands on it before committing to the pricing plans.

You can read about its many features and capabilities here and watch the movie below to see its use in exploratory data analysis. There are also loads of tutorials and guides to help you understand how to use this tool to get the best out of your data visualisations.

You can follow Quadrigram’s developments via its site, the blog, and connect on Facebook and on Twitter.

Best of the visualisation web… April 2012 (part 2)

At the end of each month I pull together a collection of links to some of the most relevant, interesting or thought-provoking web content I’ve come across during the previous month. If you follow me on Twitter you will see many of these items shared as soon as I find them.

Here’s part one of the latest collection from April 2012 (see part one):

Vis4.net | Rendering high resolution maps in Kartograph | Mapping Tutorial

Interactives | Edward Segel: interactive features should scream interactivity | Video

FastCo Design | ‘Infographic Turns Boring Corporate Workflow Into Buzzing Metropolis’ | Illustration

InfograhpicsNews | Profile of the New York Times’ experiment with gamification | Article

Ben Willers | Looking at alternatives methods of stacking data in visualisation | Methods

After The Flood | Smart videographic about the Titantic for the BBC History website | Video

Visual.ly | ‘Dear NASA: No More Rainbow Color Scales, Please’ | Article

Visualopolis | Alberto Cairo asks ‘Why is infographic plagiarism so common?’ | Article

New York Times | ‘Connecting Music and Gesture’ – Beautiful animated work to capture the movement of Alan Gilbert, music director of the New York Philharmonic | Animation

Wall Street Journal | ‘Making Data Beautiful’ – How the most inspiring new art is visualized information | Article

Guardian | Worth learning from, ‘A manifesto for the simple scribe – my 25 commandments for journalists’ | Article

XKCD | Illustrated work to explain the depths of various lakes and oceans | Visualisation

Eager Eyes | Robert Kosara explores what it means to inform | Article

FastCo Design | How GM Is Saving Cash Using Legos As A Data Viz Tool | Article

Google Think Quarterly | ‘Data Visions’ – The explosion of data is inspiring a new generation of digital artists determined to reshape the way we see the world… | Article

New York Times | Setting the stage for the Titanic tragedy | Infographic

Michael Babwahsingh | ‘Stalking the Viz-Elephant’ – getting deeper in to the discussions of important visualisation issues | Article

Forbes | Tim O’Reilly on the Future of Location: “The Guy with the Most Data Wins” | Article

Wired | Want to work at Google? Answer these questions | Artticle

Letters of Note | David Ogilvy’s letter that declares how he is a ‘lousy copywriter’ | Article

Density Design | The many ways of visualising Twitter | Collections

This is Visual | The Faces of the Champions League semi-finalists | Visualisation

Chartsnthings | Process narrative for the New York Times’ visualisation about Rick Santorum’s campaign | Process Narrative

Wired | Adidas brings you the first ‘smart’ football match | Article

Google Research | Announcing developments to the Google Fusion Tables features | Article

Guardian | Pioneering German visualisation monitors train delays in real time | Interactive Visualisation

Visual.ly | How to produce motion graphics | Tutorial

Guardian | ‘How can we get our map colours right? How open journalism helped us get better’ | Article

Derek Watkins | ‘A squinty-eyed look at population densities’ | Interactive Visualisation

Presenting the top five most popular posts on Visualising Data during April:

Best of the visualisation web… March 2012 (part 1) – April 11th, 2012

Best of the visualisation web… March 2012 (part 2) – April 11th, 2012

Newly launched – The Miso Project – April 20th, 2012

Visual.ly article “10 things you can learn from NYT data visualisations” – April 2nd, 2012

Best of the visualisation web… February 2012 (part 1) – April 4th, 2012

Best of the visualisation web… April 2012 (part 1)

At the end of each month I pull together a collection of links to some of the most relevant, interesting or thought-provoking web content I’ve come across during the previous month. If you follow me on Twitter you will see many of these items shared as soon as I find them.

Here’s part one of the latest collection from April 2012 (see part two):

American Scientist | ‘Pixels of Perish’ – Article about the challenges and opportunities facing scientific illustration in the new age of online publishing | Article

Forbes | Visualization Offers Continuous Access to Risk Information | Article

BBC News | Pretty pictures: Can images stop data overload? | Article

FlowingData | Video of an incredible digital creation of the Solar System by former game developer, soon to be potentially an application | Video

Computing Now | ‘Visualization Viewpoints: In Color Perception, Size Matters’ article from noted colour expert Maureen Stone | Article

State Impact/NPR | Visualisation plots the severity of the US drought across the country over time | Interactive Visualisations

Datavisualization.ch | Pathline: Connecting Designers With Scientists | Tool Profile

Eye Magazine | “It may be a masterpiece but Google Maps is losing ground to its rivals” | Article

Neoformix | Jeff Clark visualises the flow of ‘Movement in Manhattan’ using twitter geolocation data | Visualisation

Spatial Analysis | James Cheshire’s analysis of the ‘Twitter Languages of London’ | Visualisation

New York Times | A groundbreaking 3D-vision video version of the famous graphic ‘How Mariano Rivera Dominates Hitters’ | Video

Drawar | Interesting article about the question ‘What is Simple?’ | Article

Tableau | Drew Skau’s guest post on the Future of Data Visualization | Article

Data Remixed | Audio interview with Lisa Zhang, one of the creators behind upcoming tool, Polychart | Audio Interview

Eager Eyes | Robert investigates the ‘Explanatory Power of Data Points’ | Article

Chartsnthings | More excellent process narrative from Kevin Quealy as he looks at the NYT’s ‘White House Visits and Democratic Donors’ visualisation | Process Narrative

Jerome Cukier | Jerome explores the potential for developing Treemaps in Tableau | Tutorial

Jason Davies | Jason develops Parallel Sets for visualising multi-dimensional categorical data using D3 | Code Tutorial

Flowing Data | Brilliantly awful graphic from the World Happiness Report | Bad Visualisation

Juice Analytics | Article which explores how ‘the people who practice data analysis and visualization have their own set of immutable conflicts’ | Article

BBC Science & Environment | Cryosat mission’s new views of polar ice | Video

YouTube | Ben Welsh’s presentation at ISOJ 2012 – Data Driven Journalism event | Video

The Guardian | Interactive: MIT researchers map energy use and building material intensity across US cities | Interactive Visualisation

FastCo Design | Trulia Spendthrift Visualizer Spots The Cheapest Houses In The Best Neighborhoods | Article/Visualisation

Datavisualization.ch | Process narrative about ‘How We Visualized the Vividness of Geneva’ – AKA the Ville Vivante project | Process Narrative

Infosthetics | Profiling the ‘City Dashboard’ which aggregates all spatial data for cities | Article/Visualisation

YouTube | John Cleese On Creativity | Video

New York Times | Article about the humble pie chart | Article

Globaia | Video which plots the expansion of the world’s transit routes | Video

Eager Eyes | Robert investigates the idea of gamification and play in the communication of data | Article

Presenting the top five most popular posts on Visualising Data during April:

Best of the visualisation web… March 2012 (part 1) – April 11th, 2012

Best of the visualisation web… March 2012 (part 2) – April 11th, 2012

Newly launched – The Miso Project – April 20th, 2012

Visual.ly article “10 things you can learn from NYT data visualisations” – April 2nd, 2012

Best of the visualisation web… February 2012 (part 1) – April 4th, 2012

A little update on things to break my silence!

Hello everyone. I felt compelled to break the silence with a brief update on matters. I’ve had quite a lot of traffic round these parts of late, thanks to sharing of my data journalism handbook post and Nathan’s inclusion of my site on his collection of blog reads, but by now people are probably wondering why the lights are on but there’s seemingly nobody home!

Packed Training Schedule

One of the main reason for my current dry blog post spell is that I’m firmly in the midst of my packed training schedule. I’ve had a few private events lately and tomorrow I fly over to New York to begin a three date tour in NYC, DC and Baltimore. When I return I’m on a 2 week Italian holiday and then back over to Chicago and Toronto for another chunk of time. This means my posting frequency has been and might continue to be somewhat sporadic for the near future but once the middle of June arrives, the acceleration will be significant.

I’ve had a number of people starting to ask when I’ll be arranging and announcing my training schedule for the latter half of 2012/start of 2013. Well, the simple answer is I’ve not had time to think about it but I will be doing a formal call out for suggested locations soon. In the meantime, just drop me an email with your preferred location and I’ll throw it into the mix!

Upcoming posts

I’ve got so many half-finished/half-started blog posts in my draft folder it is becoming quite incompetent, especially as for many of the subjects the moment has somewhat passed, but I hope to rattle off a few key posts over the next month or so:

Visualing Data: The Reboot

Once June is out of the way I have loads of plans for a bit of a Visualising Data reboot which will see the site being stripped back and rebuilt brick by brick. I’m going to be looking at a new look, a new feel and definitely an enhanced approach to the content side of things too. If you have any deep felt opinions about what the site should and/or shouldn’t be, feel free to get in touch via email – I can’t guarantee it will turn out as you suggest but happy to receive any informed opinions.


Last, but not least, I’m currently also very occupied with writing my first book. As you may have heard on the recent Data Stories podcast I am in the middle of working hard on an e-book which will be published later in the year. I won’t share any further details at this stage but watch out for further announcements in due course. I will, however, share news that this isn’t the only book I’m working on…

Anyway, enough self-promotion for now, just thought I’d let you know what’s going down at Visualising Data HQ.