Seven More Planets

What else did you guys think I was going to cover today? The by-elections in Copeland and Stoke? Well, yeah, we’ll likely get back to that tomorrow when we have some results. In the meantime…space!

This is an animation from the New York Times about the Trappist-1 system that has seven Earth-sized planets, a few of which could support liquid water. And since life as we know it depends upon liquid water…well, you get the idea. Go space.

So there's Doc, Dopey, Bashful…wait, wrong group of seven
So there’s Doc, Dopey, Bashful…wait, wrong group of seven

Credit for the piece goes to Neeti Upadhye.

The Russians Are Coming

I mean, they’re already here…we will return to that shortly.

I hope you enjoyed your three-day weekend, but this is a busy week, folks. Most importantly we have Thursday’s by-elections in Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent, those are in the UK for my American audience, where we will see just how crazy British politics gets post-Brexit referendum.

But today is Tuesday, and in a slight departure from the normal, as a new subscriber to the failing New York Times, I was pleasantly surprised to see this cover waiting for me Sunday.

In Soviet Russia, newspaper reads you…
In Soviet Russia, newspaper reads you…

Quite a nice use of the Russian constructivist language going on. I’m not accustomed to seeing newspaper copy set on an angle.

Credit for the piece goes to the New York Times graphics department.

Voting on Trump’s Cabinet

Michael Flynn, the National Security Advisor, may have broken the law by talking to the Russian ambassador about Americans sanctions on Russia before Trump took office. One can imagine the furore surrounding the man and the post. However, the post is not confirmed by the Senate, but is appointed by the president. But how has the Cabinet taken shape thus far? Well the New York Times is keeping tracking with this graphic on how senators have voted.

The more controversial picks are on the left, with the more no votes.
The more controversial picks are on the left, with the more no votes.

Credit for the piece goes to Wilson Andrews.

Monday Morning Quarterbacking the Quarterbacks

As most of you know, I am a huge baseball fan. I am not so much a huge fan of American football. But I will watch it from time to time. And as a Red Sox fan, that means I will root for the Patriots. So I guess you know how my Sunday night went.

But this past week, I started my subscription to the printed New York Times. And on Sunday I opened the sports section to this full-page graphic.

Page design
Page design

It comprises three graphics: The big one on the left looks at completions under pressure. Despite being a full-colour page, the designers only needed two colours to convey the message—black and orange.

Under pressure
Under pressure

Similarly, on the right, the third-down graphic also uses a more limited palette. But, for the heat map it does make some sense to use a full colour palette.

Performance in the pocket
Performance in the pocket

Overall, the page shows that colour, when thoughtfully restrained, makes not just the graphic clearer, but also good sense.

Credit fort he piece goes to David K. Anderson and Joe Ward.

A Look Back

Well, we are one day away now. And I’ve been saving this piece from the New York Times for today. They call it simply 2016 in Charts, but parts of it look further back while other parts try to look ahead to new policies. But all of it is well done.

I chose the below set of bar charts depicting deaths by terrorism to show how well the designers paid attention to their content and its placement. Look how the scale for each chart matches up so that the total can fit neatly to the left, along with the totals for the United States, Canada, and the EU. What it goes to show you is best summarised by the author, whom I quote “those 63 [American] deaths, while tragic, are about the same as the number of Americans killed annually by lawn mowers.”

Deaths by terrorism
Deaths by terrorism

I propose a War on Lawn Mowers.

The rest of the piece goes on to talk about the economy—it’s doing well; healthcare—not perfect, but reasonably well; stock market—also well; proposed tax cuts—good for the already wealthy; proposed spending—bad for public debt; and other things.

The commonality is that the charts work really well for communicating the stories. And it does all through a simple, limited, and consistent palette.

But yeah, one day away now.

Credit for the piece goes to Steven Rattner.

The Trump Organisation Organisation Chart

Well Christmas is over so now for some of us, it’s time to go back to work. Those of you enjoying your time off through the new year, well…enjoy it.

Today’s piece is from the New York Times and explores the structure of Donald Trump’s organisation. A second graphic within the piece then details just what the various parts of the organisation actually do. I found the whole article to be a nice insight into an organisation that will likely be ever more in the news spotlight.

Who runs what
Who runs what

Credit for the piece goes to Troy Griggs and Karen Yourish.

Escaping—or Not—from the Oakland Fire

A few weeks back a fire raged through a communal, creative warehouse in Oakland. The fire claimed the lives of over thirty people. But why? We have the New York Times behind this piece which attempts to explain just what happened that night through a nice mixture of diagrammatic illustrations and photography.

This is one reason why we try to clearly signal fire exits
This is one reason why we try to clearly signal fire exits

Credit for the piece goes to Ford Fessenden and Anjali Singhvi.

Trump’s Potential Conflicts of Interest

President-elect Donald Trump was correct when he stated that the president is often exempt from conflicts of interest while in office. However, he is not exempt from the emolument clause of the Constitution. Put simply, the president cannot receive money or gifts from foreign governments. The whole not being beholden to a foreign power thing.

The catch is that a significant bit of Trump’s portfolio involves dealings with state-run companies across the world. And state-run companies are state-run, that is to say, run by foreign governments. Should they pay rent, make an investment, offer him a gift, he would be receiving money or gifts from a foreign government. Unless Trump takes action between now and January to sell-off or otherwise divest himself of those investments and arrangements, on Inaugural Day, not only would he be swearing the oath of office, but he would be breaking it simultaneously.

The New York Times went through Trump’s own financial disclosure and found these locations around the world where his business operates.

Where Trump's businesses operate
Where Trump’s businesses operate

Credit for the piece goes to Richard C. Paddock, Eric Lipton, Ellen Barry, Rod Nordland, Danny Hakim, and Simon Romero.

How Healthy Is It?

Happy Friday after the election. Now that we have had our fill on sweets and bitters, we probably need to move towards a more balanced, more moderate diet. A couple of months ago the New York Times put together this scatter plot from the difference between public and nutritionist opinion on whether certain common foods are healthy.

I normally do not comment on the design of my Friday posts, since I intend them to be on the lighter, more humourous side of things. But this piece interests me, because despite the seriousness of the subject matter I find it lighter and less serious. Why? After studying it, I think it is because of the inclusion of photographs of the items. With the labels still present, I am left thinking that a small dot would be equally effective in communicating what falls where.

In general, try to be in the upper right
In general, try to be in the upper right

But more importantly, look at the sizes of the images relative to the plot. Take the bowls of granola or popcorn, for example. They occupy almost an entire square; the actual value could be anywhere with the 10 percentage point range either vertically or horizontally. And for those two, it does not matter a great deal. Each falls firmly on one side of the line. But what about butter? Kind bars? Cheddar cheese? The large graphic size straddles the line, but because the designers opted for photos over more precise dots, we cannot ascertain whether these foods fall on one side of the line or the other.

The point is that the graphics and design of a piece can influence the perceived seriousness of a piece. An image of a can of Coca-Cola certainly can be more engaging than a 10-pixel dot. But the precision of the dot over the image can also be engaging to the right audience, an audience interested in the data behind the story. There are ways of integrating both, because later on in the same article, we see a means of doing just that.

The image lives on the left of the table
The image lives on the left of the table

Here the image provides supplemental information. Just what does a granola bar look like? Well here you can see it. But even here, despite the smaller size and cropped dimensions, the photographs steal a bit of emphasis from the numbers and the charts to the right. (For things like SlimFast, that is no surprise, because the package is designed to capture your attention.)

At the end of the day, the piece interests me because the data interests me. And the story interests me. And I generally like the data visualisation forms the designers chose. But I keep getting hung up the photographs. And not in a good way. What do you think? Do the photos add to the story? Do they make the data clearer?

Credit for the piece goes to Kevin Quealy and Margot Sanger-Katz.

Trumpland vs. Clintonopolis

I was not sure if I wanted to file this under either my humourous Friday posts or my regular weekday posts, but I ultimately decided to go with the weekly postings. Why?

It’s simply a different way of visualising the election results, by separating the two camps into two separate Americas. One is the geography connected by Trump’s victory, the other are those disconnected cities and geographies united around Clinton. A collection of almost Greek-like city states.

Trumpland.

Trumpland
Trumpland

Clintonopolis.

Clintonopolis
Clintonopolis

And what I can say as someone who often drove from the Chicago Sea to the Acela Channel, the United States is very much divided by economics and by culture. But in theory that is the great advantage of the pluralist, multicultural society—it allows for all people of all different types to cohabit an entire continent. Well, in theory at least.

Credit for the piece goes to Tim Wallace.