Design and Data Visualisation

Today’s piece features a critique of the data visualisation world from Christopher Ingraham at the Washington Post. It centres on the difference between these two maps. The one on the left is Ingraham’s and the one on the right from the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Spot the difference
Spot the difference

I do not want to spoil or ruin the article for you—it’s a short read after all. But the crux of the argument, which I believe extends beyond maps, is that despite the proliferation of tools to visualise data, one still needs to understand the principles behind it to create meaningful work. Anybody can put words to paper—look at this blog after all—but the truly great writers have the education and the experience to move and motivate people. And the same holds true for designers of data visualisation. And designers even more broadly.

If I have to add one design critique to Ingraham’s work, I would also add that design decisions like colours and map type also play a role in creating legible pieces. The grey lines in the Pew map versus the white lines in the Post’s make it difficult to read the colours in the smaller, eastern counties of the United States.

Credit for the Washington Post piece goes to Christopher Ingraham.

Credit for the Pew Charitable Trusts piece goes to Pew’s graphics department.

The London Underground Typeface

Johnston, the typeface of the London Underground, turns 100 this year. And so last Thursday the Guardian posted a short article about the typeface. It is worth a quick read, if only for the description of serif typefaces as “letters without the little flicks at the end of their strokes”. Some people overlook typeface selection when it comes to the display of data and information, but it is vitally important. Letters need to be clear and easy to understand, but also set at the right size for the audience. If they fail to do that, a work fails to be legible, and that means something is not being communicated. And that is a failure in design.

The original design
The original design

Note the handwriting for the notes versus the sans-serif letterforms.

Details in Charts

Today we are looking at a smaller piece from the Washington Post. The graphic fits within an article about US stock prices. What the graphic does is show the total scale, i.e. starting the chart on the 0 axis, and then showing in detail the fluctuations near the maximum end of the scale. And yet all of this done as an inset graphic. It need not be a full-width graphic, because the data does not demand it.

The chart is in the details
The chart is in the details

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

The Disappearing Polish S

Today’s piece is not a chart, nor is it some complicated piece of data visualisation. Instead, we are looking at a piece from Medium that attempts to explain the disappearing Polish S. Basically, it is a roundabout way of saying that it is very difficult to type in foreign languages on American keyboards because of the additional letters and/or diacritics. If you are at all interested in typography, the article makes nice use of comparative photographs and highlighted colours in the alphabet to illustrate its case.

English vs. Polish alphabets
English vs. Polish alphabets

Credit for the piece goes to Marcin Wichary.

Massimo Vignelli Dies

Massimo Vignelli died yesterday at the age of 83. Fastco has a much better article than I think I could read, this image is from their piece but is of Vignelli’s transit map for New York. I wrote about an interactive piece several years back that allowed you to compare Vignelli’s map to the new system map for the MTA.

Vignelli's subway map
Vignelli’s subway map

Credit for the piece goes to Massimo Vignelli.

The Future of Data Visualisation

Okay, we have all watched enough science fiction to know that there is not one future, but multiple futures. All options existing as if taken in parallel universes. Today’s post is not about a specific graphic, but rather a short article in the New York Times examining data visualisation. Through the work of Eric Rodenbeck of Stamen Design, it looks at how we may need to change our current vocabulary, if you will. Naturally the article offers a counterpoint nearer the end about how older forms are still useful.

Visual candy to entice you to read
Visual candy to entice you to read

Where do you fall?

Redesigning the Traffic Map

This small graphic is one of several from a very smart piece on redesigning the traffic map. Have you ever looked at a Google or an Apple traffic map to find the quickest route home or to get an idea of how long it will take you to get to the ballpark? According to Josh Stevens, your traffic map is lying to you.

Potential solutions
Potential solutions

The article is a summary or overview of a research paper not-yet-published. When you have a few moments, the whole thing is worth the read for its analysis of popular transit map designs and the five big lies.

Credit for the piece goes to Josh Stevens.

Infographics and Digital Posters

Today is the odd day where I don’t have an actual graphic to share, but rather one of those abstract theory wishy washy brainheady thinky things. It’s an article in Fast Co. that discusses an essay written by Kim Rees and Dino Citraro wherein they define the concept of digital poster. Think big, vertical, scrolly infographics.

16 Useless Infographics

Happy Friday, everyone. Today’s post comes via colleagues of mine in London, who shared with me the Guardian’s selection of 16 useless infographics. They are shit infographics. Well, at least one is. Check them out and you’ll understand.

Using maps to explain maps…
Using maps to explain maps…

Credit for the selection goes to Mona Chalabi. Credit for each infographic belongs to the infographic’s respective designer.