Chinese Urban Clusters

Yesterday the Economist posted a graphic about Chinese urban clusters, of which the Chinese government is planning to create 19 as part of a development strategy. In terms of design, though, I saw it and said, “I remember doing something like that several years ago”.

The Economist piece looks at just the geography of the Chinese clusters. It highlights three in particular it discusses within the article while providing population numbers for those clusters. Spoiler: they are large.

The Economist graphic does little else beyond labelling the cities and the highlighting of the three features clusters. But that is perfectly okay, because that was probably all the graphic was required to do. I am actually impressed that they were able to label every city on the map. As you will see, we quickly abandoned that design idea.

The Chinese government's new urban cluster plan
The Chinese government’s new urban cluster plan

So back in 2015, using 2014 data, my team worked on a series of graphics for a Euromonitor International white paper on Chinese cities. The clusters that the analysts identified, however, were just that, ones identified by researchers. Since the Chinese government had not yet created this new plan.

We added some context to our cluster map
We added some context to our cluster map

We also looked at more cities and added some vital context to the cluster map by working to identify the prospects of the various Chinese provinces. Don’t ask me what went into that metric, though, since I forget. The challenge, however, was identifying the four different tiers of Chinese city and then differentiating between the three different cluster types while overlaying that on a choropleth. Then we added a series of small multiples to show how now all provinces are alike despite having similar numbers of cities.

Credit for the Economist piece goes to the Economist Data Team.

Credit for the Euromonitor piece is mine. I would gladly give a shoutout to those that worked with me on that project…but it’s been so long I forget. But I’m almost certain both Lindsey Tom and Ciana Frenze helped out, if not on that graphic, on other parts of the project.

Kilauea Eruption

As a kid, volcanoes fascinated me. The idea that the molten core of the Earth can bubble its way up to and then erupt from the cold crusty surface of the planet still fascinates me. Of course, volcanoes can also have drastic impacts on people, both at the grand scale of impacting global climate to the smaller and more personal scale of someone’s home destroyed by a lava flow.

And unfortunately for residents of Hawai’i that personal destruction is unfolding across a development called Leilani Estates. The Washington Post has a nice piece detailing the geography of the area and showing how quickly things can change.

Earth is powerful
Earth is powerful

The article uses the photo above to illustrate the distance the lava flow travelled in only a few days. It also shows how precariously sited the homes are.

Only because I am so fascinated by these kinds of stories, I hope the Post continues to expand its content with pieces like this exploring the eruption and those of other volcanoes in the area.

Credit for the piece goes to Laris Karklis and Lauren Tierney.

What Does Your Name Mean? (Country-level Edition)

Shoutout to my very good friend Jonathan Fairman for passing this one along.

Browsing the internets, I often find these little adverts saying something about “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Name” or “10 Things Your Name Says About You”. They grab my attention because, as you all know, genealogy is kind of a thing that I do and I am curious where lots of names in my family come from.

But where do countries names originate? We all probably know America comes from Amerigo Vespucci. But how about Mexico? Thankfully Quartz put together a piece exploring country name origins. And it turns out that most can be grouped into four different types. Being named after a man, like America, well you guessed it, that’s one of the four.

Tribal names are another…
Tribal names are another…

Credit for the piece goes to Thu-Huong Ha.

Arctic Sea Ice Levels Continue to Decline

You may recall how over two years ago I posted about a piece from the New York Times that explored the levels of Arctic sea ice. It showed how the winter sea ice of 2015 was the lowest level ever recorded. Well last week the Times updated that piece with new data. And instead of the static graphic we enjoyed last time around, this time the piece began with a nice animation. It really helps you see the pattern, so you should click through and check out the whole piece.

Go hit play and you'll see the trend
Go hit play and you’ll see the trend

But this isn’t just a visually top heavy piece. No, the remainder of the article continues to explore the state of Arctic sea ice through a number of other charts and maps.

Credit for the piece goes to Nadja Popovich, Henry Fountain, and Adam Pearce.

Earthquake Early Warning

Last month, two massive earthquakes devastated Mexico. Now, if you were like me, you were captivated by the photos and videos of the quakes striking and tearing down buildings and infrastructure. But, think about it for a second, how did people know to take out their mobiles and record the tremors for posterity’s sake?

Well, the first thing you should know is that earthquakes consist of a number of different waves of energy. Some move quicker and are less damaging than the slower travelling ones. And it turns out that scientists have been able to use that speed differential to build early warning systems along and around fault lines.

The Washington Post did a really nice job of explaining how earthquake-prone California is developing just such a system to deal with its tremors. I won’t spoil all the details, you should go read the article if earthquakes are of any interest to you.

The Shake Alert system
The Shake Alert system

Credit for the piece goes to

Nambia

C’mon. You knew I was not going to let that one slip by.

President Trump, in a meeting with African leaders, twice name-dropped Nambia and in one mention held it up as having a nearly self-sufficient healthcare system. Funny thing to mention as the US is on the brink of eviscerating its healthcare system. But I digress. The point is that when you are speaking to the president of a country, you take a minute to learn how to pronounce the country’s name correctly. Even write it phonetically in the text if you have to. (I’ve done that.) So where is Nambia?

This was just too too good to pass up…
This was just too too good to pass up…

Where to Site Amazon’s HQ2

One of the stories I am interested to work on visualising in that mythical land of free time is a comparison of potential host cities for Amazon’s recently announced HQ2, a second corporate headquarters. In the meantime, I read this piece from the Times that attempted to decide for them.

Where oh where…
Where oh where…

I have some qualms with it, first that it excludes other North American cities—I would not be surprised to see Toronto win the headquarters. I have doubts that Mexico City would work, but it is possible. But my biggest problems are with the exclusionary nature of the selection. That is, within this set, cities that have x. Of the cities that have x, the cities that have y, and so on and so forth.

Personally I suspect Amazon will be looking at which cities not only fit the most requirements, but also which cities will ultimately give them the best business deal. And that I think is a very difficult to describe category.

But it is fun to try.

Credit for the piece goes to Emily Badger, Quoctrung Bui, and Claire Cain Miller.

Alaskan (im)Permafrost

I woke up this morning and before breakfast I opened the door to bring in today’s edition of the New York Times. I enjoy reading the paper, or at least a few articles, over breakfast (and more often than not preparing a post for here at Coffeespoons.me). Some of the best days are when I open the door and find a giant piece of data visualisation there above the fold. Other images, for example the other day’s eclipse coverage, also strike me, but as someone who visualises data as part of his career, I particularly enjoy things like maps. (I should point out I also do editorial design, so things like this layout are even closer to the intersection of my interests.)

Lo and behold, this morning I opened the door and we had the shrinking permafrost of Alaska this morning.

Now that is basically it. I have a crop of the map at the end here, but the map was the extent of the data visualisation in the article. Indeed, other articles in today’s edition carried more interesting graphics—I took photos to hopefully circle back—but the nerd I am, I really do get a kick finding a paper like this in the morning.

The graphic itself occupies half the space above the fold and the bright cyan and magenta steal the user’s attention. Even the headlines of the other articles recede behind the Alaska maps.

White space around the maps subtly helps focus attention on the piece. To be fair, the shape of Alaska with its archipelagos and bays along with the southeast extension help to create that space. A more squarish shape, say Colorado, would not quite have the same effect.

If I had to critique anything, I might have placed the city labels, especially Fairbanks, and the state label elsewhere to enhance their legibility. But at that point, I’m really just quibbling around the edges.

Red means it's warming up
Red means it’s warming up

Credit for the piece goes to Jeremy White.