Inaugural Day. Or as I’m now calling it, the InUGHreation. But it is here all the same. And so instead of something funny, I want to share an article from Politico that looks at the Democrats and their future. The entire thing is worth the long-ish read as it lays out challenges the party faces. But alongside the text come two infographics, the one below looks at the landscape Democrats face in 2018 in particular. It ain’t pretty.
I know I try to do something funny on Fridays. But this Friday, but for the concrete reality-ness of it all, this day would seem like an utter satire of our current political system. But again, it is all too real as of this afternoon.
Well, we are one day away now. And I’ve been saving this piece from the New York Times for today. They call it simply 2016 in Charts, but parts of it look further back while other parts try to look ahead to new policies. But all of it is well done.
I chose the below set of bar charts depicting deaths by terrorism to show how well the designers paid attention to their content and its placement. Look how the scale for each chart matches up so that the total can fit neatly to the left, along with the totals for the United States, Canada, and the EU. What it goes to show you is best summarised by the author, whom I quote “those 63 [American] deaths, while tragic, are about the same as the number of Americans killed annually by lawn mowers.”
I propose a War on Lawn Mowers.
The rest of the piece goes on to talk about the economy—it’s doing well; healthcare—not perfect, but reasonably well; stock market—also well; proposed tax cuts—good for the already wealthy; proposed spending—bad for public debt; and other things.
The commonality is that the charts work really well for communicating the stories. And it does all through a simple, limited, and consistent palette.
If you have heard enough about the Affordable Care Act, well, you could be listening to the desire to defund Planned Parenthood. Because, while that organisation cannot use any federal funding for abortions, it is the nation’s largest provider of that service. So if you follow that logic, you must strip all federal funds from the organisation.
Yeah, it makes no sense. But whatever, those are part of the Republican plans. But, if you look at the data, abortion rates are now at the lowest level since Roe v. Wade in the 1970s.
Well have we got an interesting week this week. Friday begins Trump Time. So hold onto your Twitter accounts, folks. But before we get there, I wanted to do a short week of some data-driven graphics that take a look at the state of things.
Instead of what I had intended for today, let us take a look at a new post from the Wall Street Journal that examines GDP, inflation, industrial production, and the unemployment rate in advanced economies. At its most basic level, the graphics show how many of the 39 advanced economies have a value within a one-percentage point range. The size of the dots indicates how many countries fall within the bin.
What keeps getting me, however, is the colour. Nowhere does the piece explain what the colour represents. Does it represent anything? I think it might only be used to show the ranges in the values, not the number of countries sharing said values. And if that is the case, it is a poor design decision.
My eye goes to the colour first before it goes to the dot density let alone the size of the dots. Like a Magic Eye, when I stare at the piece long enough, I begin to see the overall trend for each metric. But blink and the colours reassert their visual dominance.
I wonder what would happen if the graphic settled on a single colour? My instinct says that the patterns would become far clearer, because colour change would no longer be a visual pattern needing interpretation—even though it needs no interpretation from a data standpoint. By limiting the number of visual patterns, the piece would make the data stand out more clearly and make for clearer communication.
If an editor screams something like “It needz more colourz!!1!”, I would reserve four separate colours and then use one and only one for each of the four metrics.
That all said, what the piece does really well is explain segments of the data. In the above screenshot, you can clearly see and get the overall GDP story. But then from there you read down and get explanations or callouts of the overall to provide more context and information. The designer greys out the remainder of the dots and allows the colour to emphasise those countries in focus. A lightly transparent overlay allows for the background dots to remain faintly visible while the text can clearly be read.
All in all, I am not sure where I fall on this particular piece. It does some things well, others not so much. But either way, the piece does paint an interesting portrait of populism’s potential causes.
When I was in high school in 2002, it was big news when one of the three Larsen ice shelves in Antarctica, Larsen B, collapsed. And then when I was at university, the band British Sea Power wrote a song titled “Oh Larsen B” that I have always enjoyed.
Now Larsen B was not the first Larsen ice shelf to collapse. That dubious honour belongs to Larsen A, which collapsed in 1995. But, Larsen B will not be the last as the third, Larsen C, is now on the verge of collapse. This graphic from Adrian Luckman, reproduced by the BBC, illustrates how the rift calving the shelf has seen accelerated growth recently.
I believe the colours could have been designed a bit better to show more of the acceleration. The purple fades too far into the background and the yellow stands out too much. I would be curious if the data existed to create a chart showing the acceleration.
The inclusion of the map of Wales works well for showing the scale, especially for British audiences. In other words, an iceberg 1/4 the size of Wales will be released into the Southern Ocean. For those not well versed in British geography, that means an iceberg larger than the size of Delaware. That’s a big iceberg.
This is based off absolutely one of my favourite infographics out there—Charles Joseph Minard’s map of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. For those unfamiliar with it, he tracks the size of the French army as it invades Russia and gets thinned out along the way. Yes, some are to battles. But, the bottom of the plot also tracks temperature. The temperature of winter in Russia. And you can see how that too impacted French troop numbers.
So this modern work needed to get a shoutout here, even if it doesn’t have the temperature on Hoth. Or in the vacuum of space. I hesitated to post it for a few weeks because of the film and not wanting to post spoilers. But upon further reflection, we basically all know how Rogue One has to end—the plans get stolen and the Death Star eventually gets blown up. So I see no harm posting this now.
We are counting down the days until President Obama steps aside. And shortly thereafter his signature work, the Affordable Care Act, may be repealed. But looking back, what is the legacy of the first few years under Obamacare? Besides the obvious death panels, of course. Well FiveThirtyEight took a look. And in this graphic, we see simple line charts. But what I really like is the attention that went into the titling/labelling. The titles draw you down through the story, explaining just what you are looking at.
Credit for the piece goes to the FiveThirtyEight graphics department.
Well, we have arrived at 2017. We all know the big political story in the executive branch. But we also saw elections in the legislative branch. But how different will the 115th Congress look from the 114th? The Wall Street Journal took a look at that in an article.
The article’s graphic does a nice job showing the two different compositions. But if we are truly interested in the growth, we could use a line chart to better showcase the data. So what did I do last night? I made that chart. But as I was playing with the data I saw some numbers that stood out for me. So I compared the proportion of minorities in the original graphic to their proportion of the US national population, per Census Bureau data.
The line charts, broken out into the House vs. the Senate and then into the two parties, do a really good job of showing how the growth is not equally distributed between the two parties. And the reverse of that is that it shows how one party has failed to diversify between the two congresses.
The 115th Congress might be more diverse than ever. But it has a long way to go.
Credit for the original piece goes to the Wall Street Journal graphics department.
I stumbled upon this article last night on philly.curbed.com that takes a look at the growth and slowdown in said growth in Philadelphia. For the purposes of this blog, that included an animated .gif that showed the expansion in the metro area since the 1940s.
My quibble with the piece is that the lighter blue loses out to the darker. And so one really sees the presence of the city at the expense of the growth. I wonder if reversing the two colours or in some other way de-emphasising the areas built up would allow the new growth areas to come to the forefront of the map.
Well Christmas is over so now for some of us, it’s time to go back to work. Those of you enjoying your time off through the new year, well…enjoy it.
Today’s piece is from the New York Times and explores the structure of Donald Trump’s organisation. A second graphic within the piece then details just what the various parts of the organisation actually do. I found the whole article to be a nice insight into an organisation that will likely be ever more in the news spotlight.
Credit for the piece goes to Troy Griggs and Karen Yourish.