Why the Faces?

Stepping away from both the Brexit drama and the aircraft drama of the week, let’s look at US political drama. Specifically, the Democratic field and some of the early support for candidates and assumed-to-be candidates.

This piece comes from an article about the bases of various candidates. From a data visualisation perspective it uses a scatter plot to compare the net favourability of the candidate to the share of people who have an opinion about said candidate.

A veritable who's who of the Democratic field
A veritable who’s who of the Democratic field

But what if you don’t know who the candidate is? As in, you don’t know what they look like. Well, then it might be difficult to find Bernie or Elizabeth Warren. This kind of graphic relies on facial recognition. I’m not certain that’s the best, especially when one is talking about a field in which people may not know or have an opinion on the candidates in question.

Another drawback is that the sizes of the faces are large. And, especially in the lower left corner, this makes it easier to obscure candidates. Where exactly is Sherrod Brown? Between a unidentified face and that of Terry McAuliffe.

I think a more simplistic dot/circle approach would have worked far better in this instance.

Credit for the piece goes to the FiveThirtyEight graphics department.

Similar Airspeed Patterns

Yesterday we looked at the isolation of the US and Canada in keeping the Boeing 737 Max aircraft in the air. Later that day, both countries grounded those aircraft. Today in the print edition of the New York Times the front page used significant space to chart the vertical speed of the two crashed aircraft.

They are remarkably similar…
They are remarkably similar…

It uses the same scale on the y-axis and clearly shows how the aircraft gaining and losing vertical speeds. I am not sure what is gained by the shading below the 0 baseline. I do really enjoy the method of using a chart below the airspeeds to show the periods of increasing and decreasing vertical speed.

Credit for the piece Jin Wu, K.K. Rebecca Lai, and Joe Ward.

The US Flies Alone

On Sunday, a Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft crashed shortly after taking off from the airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This was the second crash in less than a year, since the another 737 Max 8 crashed into the sea shortly after taking off from Jakarta, Indonesia. And in the intervening months, there have been numerous reports to American regulators from pilots of problems with aircraft in flight. Unsurprisingly, international regulators have begun to take steps to protect their skies and their passengers from what might be an unsafe aircraft. American regulators, the Federal Aviation Administration, remains unconvinced.

Consequently, the New York Times put together a graphics-driven article that details just how extensive the global grounding of 737 Max 8 aircraft has been in the last 24 hours.

There's a lot more orange than blue.
There’s a lot more orange than blue.

It’s a route map to headline the article. And it shows that almost all aircraft on 737 Max 8 routes, except for those in Canada and the United States, have been grounded.

The rest of the article makes use of more maps highlighting the countries who civil aviation authorities have grounded flights and popular routes. It also includes a bar chart showing how many 737 Max 8 aircraft are in use with each airline and how many of those airlines have had their fleets grounded.

Overall, it’s a strong article that makes great use of graphics to illustrate its point about the magnitude of the grounding and the isolation of the United States and Canada.

Credit for the piece goes to Denise Lu, Allison McCann, Jin Wu, and K.K. Rebecca Lai.

Basic Statistics

Happy Friday, everybody. We made it to the end of the week. And so now we have xkcd going all back to school and teaching us all simple statistics.

And if they ask for the mode, you serve the chart with ice cream.
And if they ask for the mode, you serve the chart with ice cream.

For those unfamiliar with statistics, that’s not at all how it works.

Credit for the piece goes to Randall Munroe.

The Long and Winding Road

This Washington Post piece caught my eye earlier this week. It takes a look back at all the departures from the Trump administration, which has been beset by one of the highest turnover rates of all time.

So many names.
So many names.

What I like about the piece is how it classifies personnel by whether or not they require Senate confirmation. For example, Ryan Zinke as Interior Secretary had to be approved by the Senate. Nick Ayers, Pence’s former chief of staff, did not.

Importantly each name serves as a link to the story about the person’s departure. It serves as a nice way of leading the user to additional content while keeping them inside the graphic.

The further down the piece you go, there are notable sections where blocks of body copy appear in the centre of the page. These provide much more context to the comings and goings around that part of the timeline.

Credit for the piece goes to Kevin Schaul, Reuben Fischer-Baum, and Kevin Uhrmacher

The Uneven Rebound of Manufacturing

Admittedly, I only read today’s piece because of the photograph on the Washington Post’s homepage. It featured a giant banner saying Lordstown (Ohio) was the home of the (Chevy) Cruze. Every single time I drove between Philadelphia and Chicago I would see that sign. It was also near the halfway point, so whichever way I was headed I only had about six or so hours to go.

But the article itself is about the trials of people working in the area where that plant is located, near Youngstown, Ohio. GM, who owns Chevy, is shutting down the plant as it moves away from the manufacture of cars and focuses on trucks and SUVs. The story is about the people, but it did have this nice little map.

Quite a few locales in the Northeast haven't rebounded
Quite a few locales in the Northeast haven’t rebounded

It does a nice job of showing that while manufacturing has, in fact, rebounded since the Great Recession in 2009, that rebound has been uneven. There are some areas of the country, like Youngstown, that have seen manufacturing continue to disappear.

Credit for the piece goes to Kate Rabinowitz.

Is Bryce Harper Another Ryan Howard?

No. Definitely not. But, the position of this article by FiveThirtyEight is that the Phillies, the Philadelphia baseball team that just made the largest guaranteed contract in North American sports, may have purchased the rights to somebody who is a few years past his prime.

The author tracked the performance of similar baseball players over history and found that they peaked earlier and tailed off earlier.

Ken Griffey Jr.'s swing though…
Ken Griffey Jr.’s swing though…

Now, the obvious thing about this graphic that I dislike is the spaghetti-fication of the lines. What does help alleviate it, however, are the greying and lighter weight of the non-identified lines in the background. Interestingly, they are even lighter than the axes’ value lines. There is also a thin outline to the lines that helps them standout against each other.

I also wonder if a few more added benchmark lines would be useful. Elite seasons are defined as those with 8+ wins above replacement (WAR), an advanced measurement statistic. Could that level not be indicated with a line on the y-axis? What about the age of 26, before which the players would have had to produce one and only one 8+ WAR season to be eligible for the data set?

Of course, as I said at the beginning, the answer to this post’s title is no. Harper will make the Phillies a better team and the length of his contract will not be the albatross that was Ryan Howard’s. However, the Phillies may be paying for 13 years of subprime Harper.

Credit for the piece goes to the FiveThirtyEight graphics department.

The Stunted Growth of North Korea

This piece from the BBC is a few years old, but it provides some interesting nuggets about North Korea. Unsurprisingly it appeared on my radar because of the coverage of the Trump–Kim summit in Vietnam. The article says it is nine charts that tell you all you need to know about North Korea. Now, I do not think that is quite true, but it does contain the following graphic—I hesitate to call it a chart—that illustrates one of my favourite details.

It's just a matter of inches
It’s just a matter of inches

The two figures illustrate the average height of a person from North Korea and then South Korea. What do you see? That the North Korean is shorter. This is despite the fact that the populations were the same just a few decades ago. The impact of years of malnutrition, undernourishment, and general lack of well-being have manifested themselves in the physical reduction of size of human beings compared to their nearly identical population to the south.

Thankfully the rest of the piece contains data on things like GDP, birth rates, and life expectancy. So there are some things in there that one should know about North Korea. As much as I find the story of height interesting, I struggle to think it is one of the nine things you should really know about the state.

Credit for the piece goes to Mark Bryson, Gerry Fletcher, and Prina Shah.

Where’s All the Oil Going?

Hint: not China.

Today’s piece is a nice little graphic from the Economist about the oil and natural gas industry in the United States. We have a bar chart that does a great job showing just how precipitous the decline in Chinese purchases of oil and liquid natural gas has been. Why the drop off? That would be the trade war.

Will they take it? For all the tea in China?
Will they take it? For all the tea in China?

The second graphic, on the right, is far more interesting. The data comes from BP, so the proverbial grain of salt, but it compares expected GDP and demand for energy by source from a baseline model of pre-Trumpian trade war policies to a future of “less globalisation”. Shockingly (sarcasm), the world is worse off when global trade is hindered.

You all know where I stand on stacked bar charts. They are better than pie charts, but still not my favourite. If I really want to dig in and look at the change to, say, coal demand, I cannot. I have to mentally remove that yellow-y bit from the bottom of the bar and reposition to the 0 baseline. Or, I could simply have coal as a separate bar next to the other energy sources.

Credit for the piece goes to the Economist Data Team.

The Bill Barr Bifurcation

So today’s piece is not a revolutionary piece of information design, but it is fascinating. For two or so years now, we have all heard about the Robert Mueller investigation into potential contacts between the Trump campaign, early administration, and the administration of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

To be clear, thus far, this has been an incredibly productive special counsel.

34: the number of indictments

6: guilty pleas from associates of the Trump campaign

But what happens when the whole thing is done, especially since prevailing Justice Department rules state sitting presidents cannot be indicted? Well to answer that, we have this piece from the Washington Post.

I'm hoping the report isn't…Barred…
I’m hoping the report isn’t…Barred…

Ultimately it is nothing more than a flow chart broken into pieces, separated by a textual narrative explaining the process. Now, I’m not certain how critical to the design each headshot is—especially Barr’s that looks especially frowny faced. However, the context in the above screenshot is crucial. The public does not necessarily have the right to the findings of the report if individuals in the report are not charged.

This means that design wise, we are looking at snippets of a larger chart interspersed with text. I would be interested to see the entire thing stitched together, but the textual breaks make a lot of sense. Overall, much like the sports pieces we looked at recently, this does a nice job of weaving textual story together with information design or data-driven content.

Credit for the piece goes to Dan Keating and Aaron Steckelberg.