Picking at the Bones

We have all seen the slider that lets you see a pre- and post- or before and after of, usually, the same property, building, landscape, map, &c. Well a few days ago, the Denver Post took the same form and used it to show the before and after of cuts to the staffroom in just five years.

What makes the photo so telling is that in the editorial describing the photo, the paper is successful. But the hedge fund managers of the paper continue to demand cuts to the overhead. And in the journalism environment that often leads to cuts in coverage or quality, and sometimes both. And for the leading—and only large circulation—paper of Denver, that is bad news, pardon the pun, for the community.

Staff before, staff after
Staff before, staff after

What makes the situation worse is that allegedly the cuts are due to poor business investments by the hedge fund, Alden Global Capital, in areas not at all related to the news industry.

Credit for the piece goes to the Denver Post graphics department.

Finding Yourself on the Pennsylvania Turnpike

I hope you all enjoyed your Easter holidays. Easter, wasn’t that two weekends ago you ask. Catholic/Protestant Easter, yes. This past weekend was Orthodox Easter. And since that is what my family celebrates, I was away on holiday this past weekend and only got back in town last night. But on the way out to the ancestral stomping grounds in western Pennsylvania, I realised that the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission put a little bit of thought into the signage at their more modern service plazas.

The façade of the service plaza
The façade of the service plaza

The outside is basically what you expect, the symbol of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and the name of the plaza. But if you look closer, the name of the plaza, in this case the Lawn plaza outside of Lawn, Pennsylvania, is set not just on a blue sign, but a cropping of a blue map of the commonwealth.

This is where I was, where were you?
This is where I was, where were you?

The yellow lines represent the Pennsylvania Turnpike and, with right being east, the Northeast Extension. The red star represents your current location along the turnpike system. Is this going to tell you how many miles until your next exit? No. I had to go inside and find out how many miles to Bedford, PA on a larger display map. But, this provides a wonderful low-fidelity display. After all, I roughly know where I am headed on the turnpike, and I know whence I came. So I can see that I am a little under half-way to my destination.

Credit for the piece goes to the designers of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.

Knuckle Cracking

I used to work with a designer who was an expert knuckle cracker. So when I saw this article from the Guardian last week, I was hoping that it contained some kind of an illustration. Thankfully it did.

Pop goes the bubble
Pop goes the bubble

What I like about the graphic is its simplicity. The illustration does not add a lot of extraneous details in the hands or fingers. Instead it focuses on a three-step zoom into the joint between the fingers and the hands, showing how the bones connect and just what happens.

So Happy Friday, all. Just relax, lean back, and—made you want to crack those knuckles, didn’t I ?

Credit for the piece goes to the Guardian graphics department.

Pub Trivia Performance—the Long View

Last week my pub trivia team was debating whether our high score, although only good for second place—we lost by one point—was the highest. So this past weekend I scoured my sketchbooks for the last year and a half and reviewed our scores.

Alas, the earliest appearances were tally-free. And I did not record them consistently until this past autumn, but I had developed a decent system by last summer for the sake of comparing weeks.

Over the summer (not entirely captured) and autumn, we had a string of first-place finishes. Then we cratered towards the new year. And while we have strung together a couple of second-place finishes, we haven’t finished in first since last autumn.

We've been on a steady climb up since the new year…
We’ve been on a steady climb up since the new year…

Deaths in America

Yesterday was murders in London and New York. Today, we have a nice article from FiveThirtyEight about deaths more broadly in America. If you recall, my point yesterday was that not all graphics need to be full column width. And this article takes that approach—some graphics are full width whereas others are not.

This screenshot shows a nice line chart that, while the graphic sits in the full column, the actual chart is only about half the width of the graphic. I think the only thing that does not sit well with me is the alignment of the chart below the header. I probably would align the two as it creates an odd spacing to the left of the chart. But I applaud the restraint from making the line charts full width, as it would mask the vertical change in the data set.

The screenshot is of the graphic's full width, note the lines only go a little over half the width.
The screenshot is of the graphic’s full width, note the lines only go a little over half the width.

Meanwhile, the article’s maps all sit in the full column. But my favourite graphic of the whole set sits at the very end of the piece. It examines respiratory deaths in a tabular format. But it makes a fantastic use of sparklines to show the trend leading towards the final number in the row.

Loving the sparklines…
Loving the sparklines…

Credit for the piece goes to Ella Koeze and Anna Maria Barry-Jester.

London Beats New York

In murders. Not the best of news, no. But this past March London saw more murders than New York. But as I was reading the BBC article this weekend, I wondered why the graphic they chose to use received as much prominence in the article as it did.

London moves ahead of New York
London moves ahead of New York

The chart as you can see occupied a full column width. But keep in mind, we are looking at a total of six datapoints: the murders for two cities in three months. While the story and data is significant, does the display of the data need to be?

My version
My version

The important point in the story is that in the past three months, London has surpassed New York in the number of murders. But the graphic supporting those six data points should not be overwhelming the significance of the text explaining the trend. After all, the data consists of only three points for two cities. If the data is displayed on an extended horizontal axis, it flattens the change and minimises the increase. To counteract that, the y axis should be increased, but then the amount of screen real estate being devoted to six data points is enormous. The better approach is to use a smaller graphic that displays the data in a better proportion, but also in a proportion that does not blow out the text of the story. The graphic to the right (and maybe above this blurb of text) shows how that can be done in a smaller space.

Credit for the original goes to the BBC graphics department.

Technical Data Visualisation

I work with economists. And so I get to see working papers and other technical papers on a rather frequent basis. But I still have no way of verifying this premise. Though I most certainly believe in that dip…

I mean all things go downhill when PowerPoint is involved…I'm not bitter, I swear.
I mean all things go downhill when PowerPoint is involved…I’m not bitter, I swear.

Credit for the piece goes to Randall Munroe.

Baseball Is Back

Praise the (baseball) gods.

The 2018 season starts today with I think every team playing—the Red Sox open down in St. Petersburg against the Rays. So today’s post is on the light side as I could not find the awesomest baseball graphic. But FiveThirtyEight did at least preview the season and ran some projections. Naturally, I disagree with their projections. But I think finally this year the Yankees will be more of a threat to the Red Sox than they have been in years. The rivalry is back. (Though it never really went away in my mind.)

Switch numbers one and two and I think this might be okay…
Switch numbers one and two and I think this might be okay…

The above is the screenshot for the American League East, because Boston. But, the rest of the AL is on that page as well. For those of you from my more National League-following cities like Philadelphia and Chicago, FiveThirtyEight also previewed the NL divisions here.

Credit for the piece goes to Neil Paine.

Circle This

Last week I met a friend for drinks and part of our conversation was about how on a trip to east Asia, he flew from New York and then over the North Pole. The North Pole! I then explained it was cool, but not unique. Instead aircraft typically fly between destinations via great circles. Basically, the shortest distance between two points on the Earth is a straight line, but remember the Earth is not exactly flat. Its spherical nature means that the shortest distance sometimes is what you would see as a curve on a flat map. And sometimes, those curves are shortest when plotted over the North Pole, because unlike a flat map, the east and west ends really do connect.

Lo and behold, yesterday the Economist published a piece about a new non-stop flight between London and Perth, on Australia’s southwest coast. The graphic shows the ten longest commercial flight paths. And what do you know, one of the longest is a soon-to-be flight from New York to Singapore that flies near the North Pole.

Great circles are cool.
Great circles are cool.

Of course the key to this type of diagram is the type of projection. Instead of using the Mercator-like map made popular by direction-focused maps like those of Google, here we see an orthographic presentation. It presents the Earth as if we were to see it from space, allowing us to see the fullness of the flight paths. Tellingly, those that appear to cross the middle of the map are shown as straight lines (Atlanta to Johannesburg), but those nearer the edges show the curvature of the great circles (Houston to Sydney).

Credit for the piece goes to the Economist graphics department.

Tech Economies in the USA

Earlier this March the Washington Post published a piece looking at the twenty finalist contenders for the second Amazon headquarters. Specifically it explored how the cities rank in metrics that speak to a city’s technology and innovation economy.

That in and of itself, while incredibly fascinating, is not noteworthy in and of itself. Though I will say the article’s online title is neatly presented, split half-and-half with the vertical graphic showing the cities ranked.

I really like how this title space received a special design.
I really like how this title space received a special design.

But the point that was really neat was the interactivity that followed. Here you can see a dropdown from which the user selects a city of interest—surprise, surprise we are looking at Philadelphia. From that point on, the piece keeps the selected city highlighted in every graphic that follows.

Looking at Philly
Looking at Philly

Again, that is nothing truly surprising, but it is neat to see. What would have taken it to the next step is if each of those associated paragraphs were tailored to the specific city. Instead, they appear to be general paragraphs.

But overall, it does a really nice job of comparing the twenty cities—it’s actually fewer because both Washington and New York have multiple sites per metro area—across the different metrics.

The only part that left me scratching my head a bit was the colour choice. I am not certain that it needs the blue-green to yellow-green palette. Those colours seem defined by a city’s placement on the overall list and I am not convinced that the piece would not have still worked if they had been only a single colour, using another colour to define the selected city.

Credit for the piece goes to Darla Cameron and Jonathan O’Connell.