Latest D3 Work

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When it comes to create data-driven interactive infographics, charts and maps for the web our tool of choice is D3. This JavaScript library can connect data to graphic elements in the page and create data-driven, dynamic transformations for them. The possibilities are enormous. D3 was created by Mike Bostock, a computer scientist at Stanford University. Until 2015 he was also working at The New York Times creating some of the best interactive graphics out there. According to Martin Velasco, our Director of Web Development, “D3 is possibly the most powerful and flexible tool out there for creating sleek and precise data visualizations for the web. We really enjoy working with it”.

During the last few months we had the opportunity to experience once again the power of D3 while developing several  graphics for Urban Institute, a think tank in Washington D.C. that do research on economics and social policy. One of the more interesting is this data-intensive electoral map that connects the recent election of Donald Trump to several social indicators of financial insecurity. It is truly remarkable how D3 allows you to work with massive amounts of data (about 50,000 in this case) and transform them into beautiful rich, smooth-moving graphics. We are looking forward to more D3 work.

The New Tableau 10

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Our Infographics and Data Visualization workshops always include spending a few hours using the free Tableau Public software to create interactive data visualizations with charts and maps on the web. Tableau is a great first step for those interested in data visualization online since it’s fairly easy to learn. The newest version (Tableau 10) was released three months ago and has really nice improvements including a long overdue addition of device responsiveness to visualize data across multiple devices.

We use Tableau during the workshop because it doesn’t require the coding skills necessary to use sophisticated tools such as D3.js, the tool behind many of those amazing interactives of The New York Times and others (although today you can code a nice data visualization in R, for example, with just a few lines of code). Tableau is a great exploratory tool that lets you quickly evaluate different options to visualize you data. We actually use it for print graphics as well after saving files as PDFs.

Tableau is a powerful tool but also a great way of starting to think about key concepts in interactivity: about how to use filters, buttons, navigation tool tips or exploratory dashboards to let readers dive deep in your content. It’s used by thousands of corporations as a Business Intelligence/Analytics tool to visualize their data. The free version is a useful tool for individuals and organizations interested in making data public (remember that with Tableau Public you can’t save files locally, they are all saved to Tableau server and available for anyone to see and to download, including the datasets used. You may prefer the Tableau Desktop version but it’s not cheap).

Some of the new features in Tableau 10 include:

  • Device responsiveness. You can now generate visualizations optimized for desktop, tablet, and mobile phones. Although far from perfect, it’s a big step forward in Tableau.
  • Ability to connect to data stored in Google Sheets. You can set to your visualization to refresh automatically every day, if the underlying data in your Google Sheets file changes.
  • A “highlighter” feature gives users added possibilities to sort, find and highlight specific data for ad hoc views and comparisons.
  • Cross-database joins: you can join different data sources within the program.
  • Custom Territories: Create custom areas in maps using the data built into the geocoding database.
  • And finally, a cleaner interface with new iconography, fonts and colors, sporting a cleaner, less cluttered look that I find much nicer.

In addition, the just released Tableau 10.1 includes:

  • JSON support. JSON is common file format for web based data, widely used for API-returned data. This means you can download web-based JSON files and start to visualize them right away.
  • Automatic clustering is very interesting. Tableau helps identifying interesting patterns from the data by automatically generating clusters based of the groupings/categories specified by the user.
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Clustering feature. GIF from Tableau Public website

Tableau’s website include great learning resources. If you are looking for a good book to learn it, here is the one I found most useful.

Crime in Milwaukee 3

 

 

Our book LOOK INSIDE in Wired.com

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Margaret Rhodes has written a great review of our book LOOK INSIDE at Wired.com, and we can’t be more pleased with it. The article, titled LOOK INSIDE: A SPECTACULAR COLLECTION OF CUTAWAY INFOGRAPHICS, includes a nice gallery of images from the book.

Margaret called us a few days ago and we talked a few minutes about the book:

“From the beginning the idea was to make not only a collection of scientific infographics, but show the whole range of how different artists are using these types of illustrations,” says designer Juan Velasco, who curated the book with his brother, Samuel. (The two also co-founded information design studio 5W Infographics.) Together, the pair began collecting visualizations for the book two years ago, after realizing no such compilation existed.

The result is an exquisite assortment of cross sectional, transparent, and exploded-view cutaways that crisscrosses both history and subject matter. The book traces the earliest evidence of the genre to the Arnhem Land region in northern Australia. There, 28,000 years ago, Aboriginal inhabitants painted diagrams of humans and animals on cave walls, deconstructing their subjects into bones, organs, and muscles. “They are most certainly the first cutaway illustrations ever created,” the Velascos write.

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LOOK INSIDE  is ready to ship in Europe in the Gestalten’s website. It will be available in the U.S. in November 21 and can be preordered already in Amazon.com.

Thanks Margaret!

The fantasy maps of Martin Vargic

Literature 2.pngMartin Vargic is an 18-year-old graphic artist from Slovakia that has created some of the most interesting, intricate and beautiful fantasy maps we have seen lately. Martin focuses on cultural and popular issues and represents them as very complex maps, using all the graphical and typographical resources of traditional cartography. The results are as beautiful as they are entertaining. Take for example his Map of Literature. In his website Martin says:

“The Map of Literature is a graphical visualization of how the world’s literature evolved from the ancient era to the present day. Different periods and genres of literature are represented by distinct entities (‘countries’) on the map, that unfold from the centre and show the gradual evolution of the various genres. The map is divided into four distinct continents that symbolize the different literary forms: drama, poetry, prose fiction, and prose nonfiction”.

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The amount of data crammed into this map is staggering, and the necessary research very extensive, and yet it took Martin only three weeks to finish it (“however I often worked more than 15 hours a day on it.”).

Equally fascinating are his Map of Stereotypes, his Map of the Internet, and many others. Martin’s website, Halcyon Maps, has a great gallery with all his maps. You can even buy prints there.

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Martin has published a book with his maps called Vargic’s Miscellany of Curious Maps: Mapping out the Modern World, and he is working on a new book of infographics about astronomy and space exploration.

Randall Munroe’s infographics

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Randall Munroe left his job as a NASA roboticist in 2006, proceed to create xkcd.com, and became famous drawing funny and very smart stick figure web comics. He even won the Hugo award for Best Graphic Story in 2014. Very often his comics reveal his scientific background and frequently take the form of witty infographics. These can use humor to take on very serious subjects. Just a few days ago he posted a very interesting infographic on climate change. It is a huge timeline charting Earth’s average temperature for the last 20,000 years. You can scroll for a good while seeing the temperature slowly rising for millennia, and then rocketing up in the last few years.

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Last year Munroe published a wonderful book of infographics called Thing Explainer. It is not your typical “how it works” book. First, all the graphics are done in Munroe’s charming hand-drawn style. Second, he uses only the 1,000 more frequent words in the English language. This is a brilliant idea: the results are often hilarious, and sometimes curiously revealing. A look at the table of contest gives you the tone of the book: “Tiny bags of water you’re made of” (cells); “Sky boat with turning wings” (helicopter); “Lifting room” (elevator); “Bending computer” (laptop); “The pieces everything is made of” (periodic table). Brilliant!

SND Digital Awards and upcoming conferences

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The Society for News Design (SND) has just announced some of the winners of their “Best of Digital Design” competition. Stay tuned for a complete database of winners and the nominations for the World’s Best awards (the winners will be announced on April 11 at the SND’s annual workshop in Washington, D.C.

Here is a partial list with the Gold and Silver medals. All the usual suspects are represented, with awards going to The New York Times, ProPublica, National Geographic, Los Angeles Times, NPR and more.

We haven’t had a chance to look at all the winners, but we were really happy to see one of our favorite pieces of the year has been awarded. It was illustrator Christoph Niemann’s very original story on the Brazil World Cup and the famous “Curse of Maracaná” of the 1950 tournament, for The New York Times.

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We’ll be involved in the judging of the parallel Student Society of News Design competition.

Other important events in media design, graphics and data storytelling are coming up in the next few weeks:

The Tapestry Data Storytelling Conference is a one day event by invitation only in Athens, Georgia. It will take place on March 4. Here are the attendees (they like to keep it to about 100 people) and a link to request an invitation.

The main event in the world of infographics is also just a few days away. The 23rd Malofiej infographics conference and awards will take place at the University of Navarra in Pamplona (Spain) on March 18-20. The conference is preceded by the Show Don’t Tell workshop, led by instructors John Griwmade, Alberto Cairo and Geoff McGhee (I won’t be an instructor this year).

OpenVis, a highly recommended web data visualization conference takes place on April 6-7 in Boston. I was the closing keynote speaker in 2013 and really enjoyed the event.

Finally, the Asian Media Awards 2015 will take place on April 28-30, in Bangkok. They are organized by The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). We’ll follow this one closely as we are working more and more with Asian media, and we’ll be involved in the judging as well.

 

5W in the pages of Nature

We just finished a new infographic for Nature. The London-based weekly, interdisciplinary scientific journal is the most cited and surely one of the most respected scientific journals in the world. The nirvana of scientists trying to publish their peer-reviewed research articles. Needless to say, at 5W we had always wanted to work with Nature’s team, and we were thrilled to receive an assignment from Kelly Krause, the Creative Director.

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The graphic is about the loss of biodiversity in the world. We visualized threatened species as well as how many species exist and how many are already extinct. More than 90% of the species that have populated Earth during the past four billion years are gone, many of them in mass extinctions. So what remains? A story difficult to visualize due to the extreme uncertainty associated with much of the available data.

Samuel at 5W worked with Kelly and with editor Rich Monastersky. As expected, Nature standards for the quality and accuracy of the research are at the absolute top, and we went through multiple sketches trying to balance the gaps and uncertainties in the data (for instance, the range of estimates for number of species alive and threatened shows huge variation) with the need for high visual impact.

Here is the finished graphic (click for a full resolution image):

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And the interactive version (scroll down in this page):

Thhreatened Species interactive

Nature has a fantastic blog called Nature Graphics. Kelly and her team explain the creative process, background and design challenges behind their information graphics. A must follow for anyone interested in how data, research, design and graphics come together. Their newest entry explains a bit more about our graphic.

Nature blog

By the way, I just discovered this cool Pinterest board with a great selection Nature covers:

Nature Pinterest