How America Uses Its Land

We just came across a really engaging graphics feature by Bloomberg.com. How America Uses Its Land, by Dave Merrill and Lauren Leatherby. It’s well sourced and nicely designed. As the intro states, “The 48 contiguous states alone are a 1.9 billion-acre jigsaw puzzle of cities, farms, forests and pastures that Americans use to feed themselves, power their economy and extract value for business and pleasure.” There are quite a few surprises for the reader, such as the massive amount of land used as cow pasture/range (see map above). 41 percent of U.S. land in the contiguous states is used as pasture or cropland used to produce feed.

Here is the overall distribution of land uses:

Forest and timberland take another large chuck of the space. Did you know a company called Weyerhauser Co. owns or controls an area of timberland equivalent to the size of West Virginia?

 

 

Maarten Lambrechts’ list of 2017 visualization lists

Here is an extremely useful resource for anyone interested in graphics and data visualization. Maarten Lambrechts is a data journalist, designer and visualization consultant from Belgium. He creates great visualizations and is a speaker and instructor (check out his free data journalism training videos in Learno.net).

He has compiled a List of 2017 data visualization lists, which links to the best work created in 2017 by many of the newspapers and organizations that are doing the best graphics. It’s great to see the work of the NY Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, NPR, Reuters, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, and many others in one place. Luckily, more and more news organizations are presenting these compilations at the end of each year. They involve a lot of effort and quality journalism, and its great to discover those we missed when they were first published.

The list also includes examples made with tools like Tableau and Carto, charts from the World Bank, satellite imagery and a wonderful compilation of the best illustration published by The New York Times in 2017.

Thank you Marteen. Make sure to visit his site!

 

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

Screen Shot 2016-10-18 at 10.02.41 AM.png©Nick Kaloterakis / Collected

 

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.

BOOK IMAGE.jpg©Gestalten

 

Screen Shot 2016-10-18 at 9.41.31 AM.png©Nychos

 

Screen Shot 2016-10-18 at 9.42.01 AM.png©National Geographic

 

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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From the Map of the Internet:Internet2.jpgInternet4.jpg

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!