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:
- Layout design (slice-and-dice, squarified, ordered, strip, etc.)
- Color palette (muted, bold, sequential, divergent, rainbow, etc.)
- aspect ratio of the entire image (square, golden ratio, wide, tall, etc.)
- 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.
October 22nd, 2013 in
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.
October 8th, 2013 in
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.
October 8th, 2013 in
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.
October 8th, 2013 in
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.
October 7th, 2013 in
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
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
October 7th, 2013 in
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.
October 1st, 2013 in
With the final few remaining places disappearing on my upcoming Autumn training events it feels like a good time to open up another opportunity for people interested in my training offerings to influence where I take my next set of events.
I am now looking to schedule events for the first half of 2014. As always, I will base my planning decisions on the locations that have sufficient levels of interest to make an event viable so I would be delighted to hear from you if you would like me to run an event in a town or city near you. I will happily accept all and any suggestions for wherever in the world you want me to visit, especially those places that might have nice beaches in warm, sunny countries.
Details of the objectives, scope and topics covered in the one-day training courses can be found on my Training page. At the moment I am focusing this next schedule on my standard one-day ‘Introduction to data visualisation’ workshops but in the new year I will be revealing details of a broader menu of different offerings.
If you would be interested attending one of my training courses please send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and desired location. I will add you to my list and keep you posted on any schedule developments that include your location.
For info, some of the locations I’m already thinking are likely to be scheduled in early 2014 include London, Edinburgh/Glasgow, Birmingham (UK), Boston, Chicago, Texas (probably Houston), Montreal, and Frankfurt. Following the great levels of interest shown in my upcoming Australian events I am also exploring options to return down under (after May). I am also running an event in Utrecht (Netherlands), details will be published soon.
September 25th, 2013 in
Thanks to Mel Taylor for sharing some nice work from NatCen, a leading independent social research agency, revealing the changes in British social attitudes over 30 years.
The project presents the key findings showing how opinions have changed in Britain between 2013 and 1983, accompanying the full written report with a interactive view of five key slices of analysis. The first view, shown above, is a neat slider showing a montage of different imagery associated with some of the main topics or significant changes over the 30 years.
As you scroll down the page you move through the 5 main topics: Economy, Welfare, Morality, Politics and the Environment. Each section is accompanied with two or three charts showing you the key findings as well as offering interactive filters, milestone hovers and the option to download the data yourself.
If you want to read more about this project visit the NatCen project page.
September 10th, 2013 in
This is part of a series of posts to share with readers a useful collection of some of the most important, effective and practical data visualisation-related resources. This post presents a collection of useful tools, resources and references for gathering, cleaning and preparing your data for analysis and design.
Please note, I may not have personally used all the packages or tools presented but have seen sufficient evidence of their value from other sources. Whilst some inclusions may be contentious from a quality/best-practice perspective, they may still provide some good features and provide value to a certain audience out there. Finally, to avoid re-inventing the wheel, descriptive text may have been reproduced from the native websites if they provide the most articulate descriptions. Your feedback is most welcome to help curate this collection, keep it up to date and preserve its claim to be an essential list of resources!
Collecting and Scraping data
Typeform is a nimble, fast & surprisingly sexy way to ask questions to your users, customers & peers, on any device.
Google Docs offers two key functions to let you import/scrape data tables from websites: ImportHTML and ImportXML.
See also: OUseful Tutorial, Online Journalism Blog Tutorial 1, Online Journalism Blog Tutorial 2, Distilled Tutorial, School of Data Tutorial
Import.io makes gathering data from the web as easy as copy & paste. Whether you’re a programmer, analyst, or just want to be informed, we make it simple to extract the data you need.
Liberate your data with ScraperWiki! ScraperWiki helps you do data science on the web. Get, clean, analyse, visualise and manage your data, with simple tools or custom-written code.
Python is a powerful, versatile and increasingly common programming language usually deployed as an automation tool on the data handling side of visualisation projects (eg. scraping data, parsing it, formatting it).
See also: PyTables
OutWit Hub explores the depths of the Web for you, automatically collecting and organizing data and media from online sources. OutWit Hub breaks down Web pages into their different constituents. Navigating from page to page automatically, it extracts information elements and organizes them into usable collections.
See also: Poynter tutorial
GraphClick is a graph digitizer software which allows to automatically retrieve the original (x,y)-data from the image of a scanned graph or from a QuickTime movie. You have the picture of a graph but not the corresponding data? You want to retrieve the trajectory of an object from a QuickTime movie? GraphClick is then simply the best way to solve the problem! You just have to click on the image and the obtained coordinates of the points can be directly exported into any other application.
Pipes is a powerful composition tool to aggregate, manipulate, and mashup content from around the web. Like Unix pipes, simple commands can be combined together to create output that meets your needs, such as combining many feeds into one, then sort, filter and translate them.
See also: Day Barr Tutorial, Video
If you’ve ever tried to do anything with data provided to you in PDFs, you know how painful this is — you can’t easily copy-and-paste rows of data out of PDF files. Tabula allows you to extract that data in CSV format, through a simple interface. And now you can download Tabula and run it on your own computer. Tabula is a development from Pro-Publica, La Nacion DATA and Knight-Mozilla OpenNews.
Need image (scanned) PDF conversion to Excel, Word, and PowerPoint? Able2Extract Professional combines leading edge technology with our proprietary PDF conversion algorithm to deliver high quality conversions every time. This is great for people working with paper documents and wanting to access them electronically.
PDF to Excel allows you to easily convert PDF files to Excel, CSV and More. It is easy to use, accurate, fast and facilitates advanced editing & tweaking.
Amongst many other features, Nitro Pro 8 lets you easily reuse and repurpose text, images, or entire documents, with tools to accurately convert and extract PDF files and their content.
Wrangler is an interactive tool for data cleaning and transformation. Spend less time formatting and more time analyzing your data.
Formerly known as Google Refine, Open Refine is a power tool for working with messy data, cleaning it up, transforming it from one format into another, extending it with web services, and linking it to databases like Freebase.
See also: Transition to Open Refine on GitHub
Mr Data Converter is a very able fellow, who promises to convert your Excel data into one of several web-friendly formats, including HTML, JSON and XML.
Working with qualitative data
Leximancer enables you to navigate the complexity of text in a uniquely automated fashion. Our software identifies ‘Concepts’ within the text – not merely keywords but focused clusters of related, defining terms as conceptualised by the Author. Not according to a predefined dictionary or thesaurus. Leximancer embraces the complexity of language allowing the true meaning to emerge from the text itself, without human bias – in minutes!
Lexalytics turns unstructured text into structured data, telling you “who” is being discussed, “what” is the context of the conversation, and is it positive or negative – so that you can look for trends, send alerts, perform predictive analysis as part of your BI system, and more. Lexalytics builds a multi-lingual text analytics engine, Salience, that immediately provides excellent results with the ability to tune and customize as deeply as you desire.
See also: Demos
Welcome to the online text analysis tool, the detailed statistics of your text, perfect for translators (quoting), for webmasters (ranking) or for normal users, to know the subject of a text. Now with new features as the anlysis of words groups, finding out the keyword density, analyse the prominence of word or expressions.
Mr People is a name converter/cleaner/standardiser, developed by Matt Ericson.
NVivo is software that supports qualitative and mixed methods research. It lets you collect, organize and analyze content from interviews, focus group discussions, surveys, audio – and now in NVivo 10 – social media data, YouTube videos and web pages
See also: Demo
Bamboo DiRT is a registry of digital research tools for scholarly use. Developed by Project Bamboo, Bamboo DiRT makes it easy for digital humanists and others conducting digital research to find and compare resources ranging from content management systems to music OCR, statistical analysis packages to mindmapping software.
The Data Science Toolkit provides a range of open-source tools for data scientists assembled by Pete Warden.
A collection of specialist data gathering, handling and manipulating tools and utilities from the Digital Methods Initiative, reworking methods for Internet research since 2007.
Q has all the tools and state-of-the-art techniques to quickly extract maximum insight from your surveys
QueryTree lets you explore your data yourself with it’s easy to use drag and drop tools for exploring, analysing and visualizing data. There’s no code or formulas to write and it runs in your browser so there’s no software to install.
OfficeReports turns Microsoft Office® into a complete data analysis and reporting suite for surveys. Forget about switching between different analysis tools – now you can get Office to do all of it!
Useful resource to consider if you have manual data tasks that need accomplishing and you’ve a bit of spare budget to outsource it. “Mechanical Turk is a marketplace for work. We give business and developers access to an on-demand, scalable workforce. Workers select from thousands of tasks and work whenever it’s convenient.”
PANDA is a tool for journalists to manage data within the newsroom. First and foremost PANDA is a “data library”, which means that it stores all the data you work with–voter registration records, police reports, water testing results, etc. When you upload your data to PANDA it is stored safely away so that it can be easily found again, either by yourself or by another reporter in your organization. PANDA is also a search engine. By uploading your datasets to PANDA you make them searchable by everyone in your organization. This search feature is designed to work like Google, so you don’t need to learn a new way of exploring the data.
This project aims to automate a manual process: geographic polygon and attribute data extraction from maps including those from insurance atlases published in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Databin helps you to share tabular data — a few rows from Excel or a result from a SQL prompt — with others.
ProPublica have written a series of how-to guides explaining how we collected a sample dataset using a range of techniques. These recipes may be most helpful to journalists who are trying to learn programming and already know the basics. If you’re already an experienced programmer, you might learn about a new library or tool you haven’t tried yet.
Scraping for Journalists introduces you to a range of scraping techniques – from very simple scraping techniques which are no more complicated than a spreadsheet formula, to more complex challenges such as scraping databases or hundreds of documents. At every stage you’ll see results – but you’ll also be building towards more ambitious and powerful tools.
September 5th, 2013 in