MicroStrategy release free desktop visualisation tool

Interesting to see news of MicrosStrategy’s release of a free tool called ‘Analytics Desktop‘. In the various press releases I’ve seen it seems to be being pitched as a challenger to Tableau Public. Time will tell if it is in the same league but its a positive move and creates a new accessible option for those not already served by any of the other tools out there.


MicroStrategy Analytics Desktop is a fast, user-friendly visual analytics tool. Designed for self-service, it empowers business people to analyze and understand data without specialized expertise.With Analytics Desktop, it takes just minutes to create stunning, interactive data visualizations and data-driven stories that create new insight and new understanding.

The video below provides an outline of the offering:

Best of the visualisation web… September 2013

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. Here’s the latest collection from September 2013.


Includes static and interactive visualisation examples, infographics and galleries/collections of relevant imagery.

Neoformix | Visualising Toronto’s 311 service calls

Guardian | Holy infographics: the bible visualised

OpenDataSites | A visualisation/tool by Ben Jones to present the world’s Open Data sites, currently numbered at 50 countries, 299 sites.

Listen | Listen to the sound of Wikipedia’s recent changes feed. Bells indicate additions and string plucks indicate subtractions. Pitch changes according to the size of the edit; the larger the edit, the deeper the note. Green circles show edits from unregistered contributors, and purple circles mark edits performed by automated bots. You may see announcements for new users as they join the site, punctuated by a string swell. You can welcome him or her by clicking the blue banner and adding a note on their talk page.

ChartBall | Baseball Radial Charts: A Visual Comparison of Batters

Waag | There’s been quite a few of these lately, visualisations that map the age of buildings in cities, here’s one for the entire span of the Netherlands

Maps.Grammata | Portfolio of work from the great Matthew Bloch of the New York Times

New York Times | …and here’s a project Matthew worked on: ‘Tracking the Mayoral Candidates across New York City’

Washington Post | Graphic breakdown of Robert Griffin III’s 152 hits

BBC | ‘Zaatari refugee camp: Rebuilding lives in the desert’

Atlantic Cities | ‘There Are a Lot of Ways to Visualize Stop-and-Frisk. This One Is the Best’

Visual Metaphors | Divided London, visualising the racial divides in London

Neoformix | Similar interrogation here from Jeff Clark looking at Toronto’s Visible Minorities

Endgadget | ‘There are only so many ways one can juice up boring Excel data, but Microsoft’s new Power Map Preview for Office 365 looks like it’s up to the challenge’. Uh oh.

NASA ESW | ‘NASA satellites have been mapping Earth for over 40 years. These global observations of the atmosphere, biosphere, land surface, solid Earth, and ocean enable an improved understanding of the Earth as an integrated system. These images feature data from over a dozen Earth observation missions.’

Youth Development Index | ‘The Commonwealth Youth Development Index (YDI) measures the status of 15-29 year-olds in 170 countries according to five key domains: Education, Health and Well-being, Employment, Civic Participation and Political Participation.’

Into the Okavango | ‘A Live-data Expedition into the Okavango Delta’

Peltier Tech | Charting Survey results

Flowing Data | Dialect quiz shows where others talk like you do

Slate | ‘Is It Possible To Fit the Civil War Into a Single Chart? Here’s One Beautiful Attempt’

Wait But Why | Putting Time In Perspective

Miska Knapek | Some really interesting projects in Miska’s portfolio

Washington Post | How D.C. could look if the height restriction changes

New York Times | Front Row to Fashion Week

Spatially | ‘Population Lines’ works now available in print

bdon | Visualizing transit delays in real time: MUNI Light Rail

Ravi | ‘Living United States Presidents’


The emphasis on these items is that they are less about visualisation images and are more article-focused, so includes discussion, discourse and interviews

Vis4.net | Mastering Multi-huedColor Scales with Chroma.js

Worry Dream | A frame-by-frame articled (new verb, you’re welcome) version of Bret Victor’s talk ‘Media for Thinking the Unthinkable: Designing a new medium for science and engineering”

Consumerist | ‘Data Broker Acxiom’s New Site Allows Users To View And Edit The Marketing Info It’s Collected’

Peltier Tech | Using colours in Excel

Wired | Loads of colour-related articles going out right now, 95% of them with Rob Simmon’s name associated with them 🙂 – here’s one that discusses the colour choices around the depicting of the Yosemite Rim Fire

The Functional Art | An imaginary dialogue about infographics between a designer and a managing editor

JMP Blog | Celebrating Statisticians: John W. Tukey

TechCrunch | ‘The Data Visualization Technology That Makes The America’s Cup Accessible To The Rest Of Us’

Tableau | A Theory of Discovery: Tableau Customer Conference 2013 Keynote

HBR | Visualizing Trouble

New York Times | ‘The World as They Knew It: The Legacy of Greco-Roman Mapmaking’

Tableau | Tableau 8.1: Sophisticated Analytics for Sophisticated People

Use This | Interview with Santiago Ortiz, Developer, Visualiser

HBR | ‘The Importance of Spatial Thinking Now’

qunb | Why We Hate Infographics (And Why You Should)

Data Animator | Great article about thinking around the task of analysis, structured around one of my favourite quotes, ‘the known knowns’

The Why Axis | Bryan explores the Washington Post’s ‘Behind the Black Budget’ project via an interview with one of its creators, Wilson Andrews

Well Formed Data | Moritz outlines the work behind his great project ‘Mapping Electionland’

TED Talks | Eric Berlow and Sean Gourley: Mapping ideas worth spreading

YouTube | Author Reif Larsen at the Dutch Infographic Conference #IC13nl about infographics and his spike of excitement while working on his novel ‘The Selective Works of T.S. Spivet’, termed his ‘infogasm’

Excel Charts | Jorge as provocative as ever 🙂 with this piece ‘Why I Don’t Like Bar Charts’

Tow Center | Storytelling with Data Visualization: Context is King

Dominikus | How touch visualizations turn us into lean-back analysts

Visually | CNN Tells Stories With Data, in Six-Second Vine Videos

Charts N Things | 19 Sketches of Quarterback Timelines

Learning & Development

These links cover presentations, tutorials, learning opportunities, case-studies, how-tos etc.

Wolfram | Stephen Worlfram takes on the thorny issue of gauges in this profile of Mathematica’s built-in visualisation options. Will it change opinions? Possibly not.

PostGraphics | Behind the scenes: The perils at Great Falls

VizWorld | Visualizing for the Color Blind

Vis4.net | Bit of a masterclass in analysing data from Gregor, here he explores bias in Opinion polls using R

Scoop.It | Collection of resources aimed at helping journalists learn R

Subject News

Includes announcements within the field, brand new sites, new (to me) sites, new books and generally interesting developments.

Amazon | New Book: “Top Brain, Bottom Brain: Surprising Insights into How You Think”, By Stephen Kosslyn and G. Wayne Miller

Editorially | New tool: ‘Editorially: makes collaborative writing easy’

Apptitude | New agency: apptitude is a design-centered software agency based in Lausanne, Switzerland, aspiring to increase its expertise and recognition in the fields of data visualization, healthcare and environmental software.

Gareth Cook | New Book: The Best American Infographics 2013

QGIS | I believe this is an updated version 2.0 of the free, open source GIS tool

INST-INT | Conference, 15/16 November, Minneapolis – ‘A gathering focused on sharing insights + experiences from the field of interactive installation. Welcome to this inst-int’

Eco West | A new site to me, ‘Visualizing Environmental Trends’. “We analyze, visualize, and share data on environmental trends in the North American West. All of our downloads and resources are free.”

Aligned Left | Where to Post and Find Data Visualization Jobs

Amazon | New Book: “Designing News: Changing the World of Editorial Design and Information Graphics”, by Francesco Franchi

Random and miscellaneous

Any other items that may or may not be directly linked to data visualisation but might have a data/technology focus or just seem worthy of sharing

Guardian | Rise of the new geeks: how the outsiders won

New York Times | ‘The High School Challenge’ – take the maths challenge

Guardian | Why I love… movie computers

Core77 | Tracking the rapid iteration and development of the new Yahoo! logo

Max Degtyarev | Kind of a small multiples/time line but just a nice, fun graphic about the day in the life of a bench

Spoon & Tango | Tatsuo Horiuchi, the 73-year old Excel spreadsheet artist

Bobbby Genalo | ‘Datacoasters are wooden toys that reappropriate the classic waiting room “Rollercoaster,” a colorful, kinetic toy that has enraptured millions of youths waiting their turn at the doctor’s office.’

YouTube | ‘3-Sweep: Extracting Editable Objects from a Single Photo’

Treemap data art

Details of a Treemap Art Project have come to my attention, showcasing data-generated artwork from one of the most influential names in data visualisation, Ben Shneiderman. The project has the compelling strapline ‘Every AlgoRiThm has ART in it’.


Ben has had a hugely distinguished career and is responsible for a host of notable achievements in this field, along with Human Computer Interaction. His ‘Eight Golden Rules of Interface Design‘ and ‘Visual Information-Seeking Mantra‘ are but two of his most enduring footprints on these subjects. However, I’m sure it would be the case that many people most associate him as the pioneer of the treemap visualisation technique.

He has been working on a summer project to create a set of artworks based on his treemap technique, which has now come to fruition with the hanging of 12 framed images (24 x 36 inches) on the walls in the University of Maryland Computer Science Instructional Center.


Whilst the noise has died down somewhat recently, the negative reaction many purists have to data art as a concept is often misplaced. Data art should be judged through a different lens to data visualisation. The latter is generally concerned with discoveries from or communication of data, whereas data art is more about self-expression or an exhibition using data. Sure, there may some consequential discovery or enhanced cognition about the underlying subject through the resulting patterns, but that is not the goal.

Although I conceived treemaps for purely functional purposes (understanding the allocation of space on a hard drive), I was always aware that there were aesthetic choices in making appealing treemaps, such as the layout, color palette, and, aspect ratio of the entire image. Also certain treemaps were inherently interesting because of the data displayed or patterns revealed.

Ben goes onto explains his belief that there are at least four aesthetic aspects of treemaps:

  1. Layout design (slice-and-dice, squarified, ordered, strip, etc.)
  2. Color palette (muted, bold, sequential, divergent, rainbow, etc.)
  3. aspect ratio of the entire image (square, golden ratio, wide, tall, etc.)
  4. prominence of borders for each region, each hierarchy level, and the surrounding box


The dedicated website tells the story, shows sets of draft designs, and full size PDFs for the 12 images. There is also a flyer for those who want a 2-page summary with all 12 thumbnails and some pictures of the installation.

Ben explains that the prints will be up for at least two months…

then we’ll see what happens… I’ve been getting increasingly enthusiastic feedback as we refined the designs. Now dealing with requests for prints, which is a good sign. It’s been very interesting to shift my thinking to the aesthetic side and commit to making artistic choices.

Short evening workshop in London, 28th Oct

Quick announcement to say, thanks to General Assembly, I will be running a 90-minute evening introductory workshop on data visualisation, 19:45 to 21:15 on Monday 28th October. The cost is £25 per person.


Video: The value of clarity and functionality for infographics

Here’s a nice 12 minute movie from Swissinfographics featuring some of the best names in infographic design discussing the challenge of achieving clear and functional designs, the essence of the graphic design style that originated from Switzerland in the 50s termed ‘Swiss Style‘.

The video includes contributions from the likes of Geoff McGhee (Stanford), Jen Christiansen (Scientific American), Graham Roberts (The New York Times), Nigel Holmes (formerly at Time magazine), and Nicholas Felton (formerly at Facebook), as well as several other renowned designers.

SwissInfographics met with information designers and theorists to discuss the values of clarity and functionality for infographics, and today’s relevance of Swiss Style. The result is a series of highly inspiring statements condensed into a 10-min movie called “Swiss Style Reboot: The Short Film”.

The project was part of the Swiss Style Reboot exhibition that took place in July in Boston.

Videographic for BBCs 100 Women season launch

The BBC News website has today launched a new series titled ‘100 Women‘, bringing together a range of interviews, profiles, articles and other digital content to look at the world we live in through the eyes of women.


To mark the series they have released a videographic (or is it info-videographic? infographic video?) that explores some of the sobering and staggering statistics around women’s continued battle for parity, opportunity and safety in our modern society, ebbing and flowing between positive stories and then more depressing contexts. It is not possible to embed the video but here are some screengrabs and just click on the images to get to the video’s page.








Interestingly, looking purely at the design execution, for the purist, there are probably many flaws behind the representation of the data in this video and it has that infoposter-elements look and feel. However if the measure of effectiveness is about the clarity and impact of the information communicated, then I have certainly found it a success.

Visualising the ‘Fallen’

The Fallen 9000 was an artistic ‘event’ to coincide and mark International Peace day on 21st September. The project took place on the D-Day landing beach of Arromanches in France with the objective of representing the estimated 9,000 civilians, German forces and Allies who lost their lives on 6th June 1944.


The project was the idea of Yorkshire sand artistis, Jamie Wardley and Andy Moss. They created a series of stencilled drawings for a team of volunteers to use to create the image prints of bodies in the sand.

Our challenge is to represent those lives lost between the times of the tide with a stark visual representation using stencilled sand drawings of people on the beach. Each silhouette represents a life and when it is washed away its loss. There is no distinction between nationalities, they will only be known as ‘The Fallen’.


As the authors describe, “the exact figure of the fatalities will never be known due to the horrendous carnage that is often termed the ‘fog’ of war. 9000 is a rounded down to the nearest thousand and is most likely a conservative number based on 3000 French civilians, 2000 German Forces and 4414 Allies.”


You can read more about the project here and also see the full gallery of photos and images emerging from this event here.

Best of the visualisation web… August 2013

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. Here’s the latest collection from August 2013.


Includes static and interactive visualisation examples, infographics and galleries/collections of relevant imagery.

YouTube | NASA animated portrayal of temperature data from 1880 to 2011

Flickr | 10000px wide infographic from 1944 about Electromagnetism (via @Frencil)

New York Times | Detailed timeline and map to track the explorations of the Mars Curiosity Rover

Data Blog | Visualising the London-Surrey 100 bike ride

Andrewxhill | A series of super mapping demos using CartoDB and Leaflet

Cooper Center | Racial Dot Map, profiling one dot for every person in the US, created by Dustin Cable

New York Times | Reshaping New York: From buildings to bike lanes to painting over Broadway, how the city changed in 12 years of Bloomberg

Washington Post | Long-form digital storytelling about ‘The Perils at Great Falls’

VisualLoop | Portfolio of the Week: Richard Johnson, one of North America’s most recognized visual journalists

Washington Post | Second long-form entry from WaPo, this time profiling ‘Nasa’s mission improbable’

FastCo Design | An Epic Timeline Of Wardrobe Colors In “Breaking Bad”

Byjess | Talking about the history and future of the ‘Death and Taxes’ infographic

La Sombra del Asno | This was a busy week of infographic work for Adolfo Arranz, with four full-page releases of typical beauty

Washington Post | Another fabulous multi-faceted digital story, this one about the ‘Black Budget’

MartinGrandjean | Here’s a single page alternative view of the black budget data reimagined

FastCo Design | An Interactive Map Of Every Stream In The U.S.

Washington Post | Nice use of small multiples in this interactive graphic of stock price changes

Imus Geographics | Think I’ve posted this before but its worth another go – a collection of the most beautiful wall maps of the USA

Scientific American | Where (in the World!) Your Fruits and Vegetables Come from: An Interactive Finder

Scientific American | Second graphic from SA, this is an interactive titled ‘The Flavor Connection’ by Jan Willem Tulp

FlowingData | Plotting a sample of locations across the US and the distances to the nearest grocery store

YouTube | A visual and narrated tour of the Yosemite Rim fire using Google Earth

Washington Post | OK it has been a bit of a WaPo love-in this month but this is really nice to see, a Sankey on the front page!

Visualizing.org | Expert Galleries: Stefanie Posavec

Wired | Visualize London’s Underground With This Mesmerizing Interactive 3-D Map

NNVL | Sadly unavailable right now (due to US Government staff furlough) but (from memory!) this was a great work tracking cyclone frequency


The emphasis on these items is that they are less about visualisation images and are more article-focused, so includes discussion, discourse and interviews

PJIM | Third quarterly publication of Parsons Journal for Information Mapping

Brainpickings | The Art of Looking: What 11 Experts Teach Us about Seeing Our Familiar City Block with New Eyes

Silicon Angle | The Hardest Part of Data Visualization : Simplicity + Consumability

Visual Complexity | Visualization Metaphors: Old & New. Acknowledging the importance of analysing and understanding the long history of visualisation techniques.

JSK | Nuno Vargas’s 2013 Knight Talk: Re-engineering journalism

Statistics Views | Visualising Data that Changes Over Time, talk from Alan Smith OBE

Unintuitive | ‘Designers. Get over your fear of code and on with your lives’ (part 1)

Unintuitive | ‘Designers. Get over your fear of code and on with your lives’ (part 2)

The Functional Art | Infographics shouldn’t be done just by professional designers

The Why Axis | Bryan finds potential in the ‘Pitfalls of Google Databoard’

FastCo Design | Designers Challenge Bucky Fuller’s Geo Worldview: re-drawaing the lines of the geopolitical dymaxion map

EagerEyes | Robert discusses the idea of ‘the perfect visualisation’

Academia.edu | Comparing information graphics: a critical look at eye tracking (pdf)

The Functional Art | In infographics, steal what you need, but credit your sources

Government Digital Service | A few notes on typography

Big Times | Let the data speak: Interview with Jer Thorp

Twisted Sister | 40 Maps That Will Help You Make Sense of the World

HBR | To Go from Big Data to Big Insight, Start with a Visual

The eLearning Coach | Interview with Alberto Cairo: How To Design Real (Not Fake) Information Graphics

UX Magazine | A Look at Flat Design and Why It’s Significant

Stamen | A reflective report from Zoe Padgett about her internship at Stamen

Michael Babwahsingh | Michael discusses the ‘other’ visualisation – imagination.

Visually | CNN Tells Stories With Data, in Six-Second Vine Videos

BusinessInsider | There are probably many more worse choices but there are some beauty baddies in here…

Learning & Development

These links cover presentations, tutorials, learning opportunities, case-studies, how-tos etc.

Visually | Superb series of articles from Rob Simmon (NASA) about the subtleties of colour. A must read if ever there was one.

VisualLoop | The making of a tide chart infographic by Jessica Suen ‘Redwood City Tide Predictions’

BBC Internet Blog | Process narrative behind last year’s James Bond ‘parallax scrolling’ infographic

Dominikus | How to make fast animated HTML5 visualizations – in-depth article about the new HTML5 version of the Better Life Index

DataRemixed | Interactive tool for accessing worldwide Open Data sites

Here.com | LivingCities: A shared cartographic experiment from HERE and CartoDB

Creative Bloq | Decent summary of some of the key principles to help ‘design more compelling data visualisations’

thinkDataVis | Use D3.js on your desktop to publish static visualisations

Vimeo | Tech Talk: Data Visualization Meetup with Kim Rees

VizWiz | Slides from the Facebook talk @ #TCCEU13 – Creating a culture of data… and making everyone an analyst in the process

thinkDataVis | How to make a heat map with hexagons, D3.js, hexbins.js, Open Street Map, Inkscape, and Paint.NET

Data Remixed | How to View your Website Stats in Tableau

Subject News

Includes announcements within the field, brand new sites, new (to me) sites, new books and generally interesting developments.

Tableau | Tableau Public Gets A Million Rows!

Perceptual Edge | Brief announcement from Stephen Few about his latest book project: ‘Signal’

Nature Graphics | New blog providing a collection of graphics from the pages of Nature, curated by the Nature art team.

Storytellingwithdata | Review of Nathan Yau’s ‘Data Points’ book

UK Data Explorer Blog | New blog about data visualisation and open data from James Trimble

If We Assume | CUBEHELIX colour scheme now available for Tableau

WTF Visualizations | The site the world has been waiting for. Thanks to Drew Skau for starting this collection of the finest worst work in our field

Datawrapper | Overview of the new version of Datawrapper (1.5)

Random and miscellaneous

Any other items that may or may not be directly linked to data visualisation but might have a data/technology focus or just seem worthy of sharing

BuzzFeed | Simpsons Fan Art: 18 Posters For Troy McClure Movies

Typehunting | Great source for type inspiration

HBR | This is my favourite useless article in the history of time: ‘2 Things your data visualisation needs’. Adapted from ‘3 elements of successful data visualisations’. Genius.

Core77 | A user-configurable dashboard on the Corvette Stingray

360gigapixels | Explore 360 degrees of Tokyo’s panorama with this incredibly high resolution view

YouTube | How do Japanese multiply?

Super Graphic | A visual guide to the comic book universe

Ideas Lab: Visualizing Global Trade

Launched yesterday comes a new interactive visualisation project and week-long accompanying series on global trade issues from ‘Ideas Lab‘.


As the authors describe, the tool maps global trade against economic opportunity and quality of life indicators with the purpose of examining the relationship between global trade and social and economic factors within and between countries around the world.

The project is primarily based on a navigable map and/or list of country codes that enable you to compare one country’s trade ‘data card’ with another. Each card is packed with indicators about the country’s reliance on trade, including matters such as the ease of doing business, the country’s global competitiveness and the Human Development Index for context.


You also have the ability to create your own colour pallete and interact with a sliding range selector to view the reliance on trade of countries up and down the spectrum. By toggling the inclusion or exclusion of the blue (doing business), red (global competitiveness) and yellow (HDI) factors, you see a colour mix applied to the profiled countries at each point on the selector to highlight their relative readings across these indicators.


There is a lot going on in this project so it is really helpful to be welcomed by a screen full of explanatory annotations and instructions. Like we saw recently with the project ‘Kindred Britain‘, don’t just dive in and expect to be immediately intuitively capable of interpretation/understanding, it needs a bit more patience and careful navigation before you reach that stage.

I therefore found it really helpful and refreshing to see this project avoiding the lazy option and just putting out a tool, abdicating responsibility for how effectively users interact with and unearth findings from the tool. Instead, the designers/authors have created four sections of key Q&As including key insights, functionality, elements of the data visualisation, and data analysis. There is also a detailed blog post that provides more depth about the background, workings and findings of the project.