Apologies for the lack of posts over the last week or so, I have alternately been on holiday or sick while spending other time on my annual Christmas card. This will also be the last post for 2017 as I am on holiday until the new year. But before I go, I want to take a look at the election night graphics for the Alabama US Senate special election yesterday.
I am going to start with the New York Times, which was where I went first last night after returning from work. What was really nice was there graphic on their homepage. It provided a snapshot fo the results before I even got to the results page.
The results page then had the standard map and table, but also this little dashboard element.
We all know how I feel about dashboard things. To put it tersely: not a fan. But what I did enjoy about the experience was its progression. The bars below filled in as the night progressed, and the range in the vote-ometers narrowed. But that same sort of design could be applied to other graphics representing the narrowing of likely outcomes.
The second site I visited was the Washington Post. Like the Times, their homepage also featured an interactive graphic, another choropleth map.
There are two key differences between the maps. The Times map uses four bins for each party whereas the Post simplifies the page to two: leading and won. The second difference is the placement of the map. The Post’s map is a cropping of a larger national map versus the Times that uses a sole map of the state.
For a small homepage graphic, bits of both work rather well. The Times cuts away the unnecessary map controls and neighbouring states. But the space is small and maybe not the best for an eight-binned choropleth. In the smaller space, the Post’s simplified leading/won tells the story more effectively. But on a larger space that is dedicated to the results/story, the more granular results are far more insightful.
On a quick side note, the Post’s page included some context in addition to the standard results graphics. This map of the Black Belt and how it correlates to regions of Democratic votes in 2016 provides an additional bit of background as to how the votes played out.
Credit for the piece goes to the design teams of the New York Times and the Washington Post.
North Korea tested another missile yesterday. And while we do not have the precise details, I happened to come across this video from the New York Times exploring the different means by which the United States defends against missile threats. It makes use of some nice illustrations and motion graphics to explain ballistic missiles and missile defence systems.
Credit for the piece goes to Robin Stein and Drew Jordan.
Last week we saw a lot of news break, and then here at Coffeespoons we had the usual American Thanksgiving holiday with which to contend. So now that things are creeping back to a new normal, let us dive back into some of the things we missed.
How about those German coalition government talks?
Remember two months ago when we looked at Die Welt and the German election results? Well it turns out that the FDP, the liberal (in the more classical sense that makes them more centre-right) Free Democrats, have walked away from coalition talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU party (it’s actually two separate parties that have an alliance) and the Green Party. That leaves Merkel with the the Social Democrats as the only other option to form a majority government. (She could attempt to hold a minority government, but from her own statements that appears unlikely.) But the Social Democrats do not appear too keen on joining up in a grand coalition.
So where does Germany stand? Well thankfully the Economist put together a short article with a few graphics to help show just how tricky putting together a new coalition government will be.
In terms of design, there is not too much to stay here. The colours are determined by the colours used by the political parties. And the 50% vote threshold is a common, but very useful and workable, convention. The only thing I may have done to emphasise the lack of change in the polling data is a line chart to show the percentage point movement or lack thereof.
Credit for the piece goes to the Economist Data Team.
This is a piece from a few years ago, but the New York Times cleverly brought it to the front of their Upshot page. And it seemed just so appropriate. Many of you are likely travelling today—I’m not, I’m headed to work—and many of you will be driving or taking the train. But some will be flying. But to and from where?
The map has some nice features that allow you to selectively few particular cities. Philadelphia has relatively few travellers by air, but that’s probably because places in the Northeast are more easily accessible by road or rail.
Chicago also has relatively few travellers, though more than Philadelphia. I would posit that is because most people are not flying to visit their relatives, but rather driving to places in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Indiana.
No post tomorrow, because I intend on sleeping in. But you can expect something on Friday.
Credit for the piece goes to Josh Katz and Quoctrung Bui.
A story over the last several days you may not have heard about concerns the disappearance of the ARA San Juan, an Argentinian Navy submarine. Here in the US and over in the UK, we use rather large nuclear-powered submarines. They can travel the world underwater without ever coming up for air. But most of the rest of the world uses much smaller diesel-electric submarines. They have to come up for air every couple days, like in all those World War II submarine movies.
As you know, these kind of stories are right up my alley and I wanted to try and explain the story visually. Unfortunately, it took me way too long to illustrate the two submarines you will see. So instead, we have more of a comparison of the San Juan, a Type 1700 submarine, and the movie-famous American Los Angeles class attack submarine.
I had a lot of other things planned, but had to drop them. The point is that the Argentinian submarine is a lot smaller, has fewer crew, but needs to come to the surface in the next day or two, most likely. Time is beginning to run out.
I was reading the Sunday paper yesterday and whilst I normally skip the sports section, especially during baseball’s offseason, this time a brightly coloured map caught my attention. Of course then I had to read the article, but I am glad that I did.
On Sunday the New York Times ran a print piece—I mean I assume I can find it online (I did.)—about CBS chooses which American football matches to air in the country’s markets. It is a wee bit complicated. And if you can find it, you should read it. The process is fascinating.
But I want to quickly talk about the design of the thing. Remember how I said a map caught my attention. That was pretty important, because the map was not the largest part of the article. Instead that went to a nice big photo. But the information designer I am, well, my eyes went straight to the map below that.
There is nothing too special about the map in particular. It is a choropleth where media markets are coloured by the game being aired yesterday. (The piece explains the blackout rules that changed a few years ago from what I remember growing up.)
But then on the inside, the article takes up another page, this time fully. It runs maps down the side to highlight the matches and scenarios the author discusses, reusing the same map as above, but because this is an interior page, in black and white. It probably looks even better online as they likely kept the colour. (They did. But the maps are smaller.)
Overall, I really enjoyed the piece and the maps and visuals not only drew me into the piece, but helped contextualise the story.
Long week? Tired of the status quo? Well this week xkcd helps you figure out where to move next. Personally, no real surprises here as some of my favourite cities remain ideal places to live. Here’s looking at you London, Dublin, &c.
While I am still looking for a graphic about Zimbabwe, I also want to cover the tax reform plans as they are being discussed visually. But then the Senate went and threw a spanner into the works by incorporating a repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate. “What is that?”, some of you may ask, especially those not from the States. It is the requirement that everyone have health insurance and it comes with tax penalties if you fail to have coverage.
Thankfully the New York Times put together a piece explaining how the mandate is needed to keep premiums low. Consequently, removing it will actually only increase the premiums paid by the poor, sick, and elderly. The piece does this through illustrations accompanying the text.
Overall the piece does a nice job of pairing graphics and text to explain just why the mandate, so reviled by some quarters, is so essential to the overall system.
Initially I wanted today’s piece to be coverage of the apparent coup d’état in Zimbabwe over night. But while I have found some coverage of the event, I have not yet seen a single graphic trying to explain what happened. Maybe if I have time…
In the meantime, we have the Economist with a short little piece about Trump on Twitter and how he has bested his rivals. Well, most of them at least.
The piece uses a nice set of small multiples to compare Trump’s number of followers to those of his rivals. The multiples come into play as the rivals are segmented into three groups: political, sport, and media. (Or is that fake media?)
Small multiples of course prevent spaghetti charts from developing, and you can easily see how that would have occurred had this been one chart. But I like the use of the reddish-orange line for Trump being the consistent line throughout each. And because the colour was consistent, the labelling could disappear after identifying the data series in the first chart.
And worth calling out too the attention to detail. Look at the line breaks in the chart for the labelling of Fox News and NBA. It prevents the line from interfering with and hindering the legibility of the type. Again, a very small point, but one that goes a long way towards helping the reader.
I think the only thing that could have made this a really standout, stellar piece of work is the inclusion of another referenced data series: the followers of Barack Obama. At 97 million followers, Obama dwarfs Trump’s 42.2 million. Would it not be fantastic to see that line soaring upwards, but cutting away towards the side of the graphic would be the text block of the article continuing on? Probably easier for them to do in their print edition.
Regardless, this is another example of doing solid work at small scale. (Because small multiples, get it?)
Credit for the piece goes to the Economist Data Team.