Picture Graphs ca. 1937

Among my legions of books are a few from my grandfather’s days when he was a student. After going through some photos yesterday, I realised that I had taken photos of his elementary school algebra text book. Among the first chapters was an entire section on graphing and chart types. I hope to go through these in more detail in some later posts, but here’s one for the stereotypes.

A picture graph
A picture graph

Punxsutawney Phil’s Day in the Sun

Groundhog Day. It’s Punxsutawney Phil’s day in the sun. Or not. Depends upon the year.

Anyway, the Philadelphia Inquirer did a small piece about the history of this famous little groundhog from remote northwestern Pennsylvania.

The Past Prognostications of Punxsutawney Phil (Alliterate that.)
The Past Prognostications of Punxsutawney Phil (Alliterate that.)

Credit for the piece goes to Cynthia Greer.

Housing Prices Fall Some More

Houses are meant to be lived in. Which is good to know if you’re a real estate investor because the housing market in the US is still not so good. According to an article in the New York Times, we’re back to 2003 levels (on average of course) for single-family homes.

Accompanying the article is an interactive chart that lets users view the full breadth of the survey while highlighting specific markets of interest and showing actual values along the length of the chart.

The Case-Shiller Index for Housing Prices
The Case-Shiller Index for Housing Prices

Credit for the piece goes to Kevin Quealy and Jeremy White.

Florida Primary

The Republican primaries…they’re still going on…on the long inevitable road to Romney’s coronation. Next up is Florida, always an interesting state to watch. There are a lot of people there with a whole host of interesting demographic slices. Perhaps one of the most interesting ones, at least to the media, is the Hispanic vote. Other things to look at in Florida include the burst housing bubble and rather high unemployment.

The New York Times published a graphic with a few maps and charts trying to paint the landscape of the Florida primary battle. These two selections below show which Republican primary candidates won which counties in 2008 as well as the size of the Hispanic population registered Republican.

Florida primary landscape
Florida primary landscape

Credit for the piece goes to Haeyoun Park.

Apple And Its Suppliers

American companies have long been moving their manufacturing overseas. Apple is no exception. However, Apple does audit its suppliers to ensure they are in compliance with the company’s code of conduct. The New York Times reported on this and included a graphic along with its article.

Apple Audits Its Suppliers
Apple Audits Its Suppliers

We have small multiples of line charts with small blurbs of text to highlight key stories. Clean, clear, and communicative. I contrast this with the number of charts one might see in business presentations, which presumably would have similar content in terms of audits and performance for a company, where these lines would normally be smashed together into one chart. At that point lines become indistinguishable from each other and the individual stories are missed among a muddle of a main story. Furthermore, in my experience, a business presentation would make full use of the width of the medium, in this case some 900 pixels or so. And for this story in particular that would mean, at most, by my count, 900 pixels for 5 plotted points in a timeline.

Seeing work like this is refreshing.

Show Europe the Money

The Guardian has an interactive piece that details payments to and from European Union member states to institutions, determining whether each state is a giver or receiver.

Comparing payments and receipts in EU member states
Comparing payments and receipts in EU member states

The concept sounds all well and good. However, the piece itself feels clumsy with too much scrolling and whipping about to pan across the whole EU. The charts look a tad heavy—which could have been remedied for a more concise piece—and the callouts beg for a level of interactivity that is otherwise lacking.

Lastly, I have concerns about the list of countries at the top, although these may stem only from the point of view of an American not too familiar with Europe. Flags are not circles, they are, in most cases, rectangular in shape. Does cropping a symbol or icon of a country make it more or less useful of a symbol or icon? Furthermore, do the British recognise the flags of their fellow EU member states?

The country icons/flags call for some type of sorting function, to compare payments and receipts and their balance. But, instead, they sit there in unalterable silence, providing only an economic overview when clicked. An overview that through its staid design feels more like an afterthought.

Fresh Water Bulge in the Arctic Ocean

The BBC has an article on a discovery of a growing bulge of fresh water in the Arctic Ocean. The top of the article includes a large set of graphics that explains the story below and links to an animation. The animation depicts the growth of the Arctic ice sheet from the pressure beneath and plots the height of the ice.

The fresh water bulge in the Arctic Ocean
The fresh water bulge in the Arctic Ocean

How the Costa Concordia Sank

The Costa Concordia sank nearly a week ago, but the questions of exactly how and why she sank will likely linger for much longer.

The BBC has had extensive coverage of the story, including this page that details what is known about how and why the cruise ship sank.

How She Sank
How She Sank

Earth-sized Planets

Kepler 20 System
Kepler 20 System

We have finally discovered two planets outside our solar system that have roughly the same size as Earth. Unfortunately, unless we learn that life can exist in the form of fire beings, these two planets are too close to their sun to support life. Their temperatures are in the hundreds and thousands of degrees. A bit balmy.

The New York Times has a small but interesting chart that fits inline with its article, at least on its website—presumably it fits similarly in its printed form. Seen here to the left, it plots the orbital distance of the planets that are known to orbit the star Kepler 20. (Unfortunately these planets have less than creative names: Kepler 20e and Kepler 20f.) The other planets are gas giants.

The use of scale of orbits and the gap between 20f and 20d allow for an annotation within the image. And then with a little bit more vertical space, to drive hom the point of these new planets’ nearness to their sun, the orbit of Mercury, the planet nearest our sun, is plotted for comparison.

The Family Tree of Kim Jong Il

Kim Jong Il is dead. And nobody really knows what is going to happen in North Korea.

But, what we do have, is the interactive family tree of Kim Jong Il, courtesy of the BBC. Select individuals are clickable and have short biographical sketches. Unfortunately, the tree has been simplified for clarity and it does not contain all members of the family.

The family tree of Kim Jong Il
The family tree of Kim Jong Il