News Deserts

Yesterday we looked at the shrinking Denver Post. Today we have a graphic from a related story via Politico. The article explores the idea that President Trump performs better in what the article terms “news deserts”, those counties with a very low level of newspaper circulation. (The article explains the methodology in detail.) This piece we are looking at here shows how those counties performed against the circulation rate and their 2016 presidential election result.

How the news deserts performed
How the news deserts performed

Overall, the work is solid. But I probably would have done a few things differently. First, the orange overlay falls in the middle of one column of dots. Do those dots then fall inside or outside the categorisation of news desert?

Secondly, the dots. If this were perhaps a scatter plot comparing the variables of circulation rates and, perhaps, election vote results as a percent, dots would be perfect. Here, however, they create this slightly distracting pattern in the the main area of counties. When the dots are stacked neatly and apart from other columns, as they are more often on the right, the dots are fine. But in the packed space on the left, not as much.

As I was reading through the article I had a couple of questions. For example, couldn’t the lack of newspapers be reflective of the urban–rural split or the education split, both of which can be seen in the same election results. Thankfully the article does spend time going through those points as well. It is a bit lengthy of a read—with a few other perfectly fine graphics—but well worth it.

Credit for the graphics goes to Jeremy C.F. Lin.

Bitcoin Land

Sorry, I ran into some technical problems this morning so this is going up this afternoon with an added bit at the end.

I’m not really sure this piece should go onto the blog. But I like it. And this is still my blog. So what the hell.

I grew up a big fan of games like Sim City, where you could create your own universes. And in the world of infographics, you do occasionally see the isometric drawings of cities, but I find they often lack representative value. Here, in this piece from Politico Magazine, we have the Bitcoin landscape.

The different buildings represent different elements of the cryptocurrency’s ecosystem, from supporting markets, regulators, utility companies, &c. Later on in the article, the different sections are broken out and labelled and annotated. Additional elements are also brought in to explain ancillary parts of the Bitcoin landscape. All the while keeping the same style. Very well done.

Reticulating splines
Reticulating splines

This detail looks at some of the things existing outside the specific Bitcoin environment, e.g. other cryptocurrencies. And the aforementioned utility companies that provide the necessary power for the computations.

It even has a tram system…
It even has a tram system…

I kind of wish the universe was larger, though. If only for the purely selfish purpose of getting lost in the illustrations.

Since I’ve had today to think more about this, it reminded me of one of my favourite projects I got to work on from a couple of years ago.

Unfortunately for me, my illustration skills are not quite top-notch. But I did get to direct a similar project, working with a talented designer—now expert craftsman—who can in fact draw. And since it’s not often I get to show this work, why not. We used consumer survey data describing the average middle class household to, well, visualise said middle class household. It took a lot longer than I think anyone thought, so we never attempted the style again. But the designer did some great work on this.

One of my favourite projects that I oversaw as Captain Art Director (not my real title).
One of my favourite projects that I oversaw as Captain Art Director (not my real title).

Credit for the Politico piece goes to Patterson Clark and Todd Lindeman.

Credit for the Euromonitor piece goes to Benjamin Byron and myself.

An Ailing Graphic on the Healthcare Labour Force

I know I have said it before, but I like the increasing number of graphics-led articles published by Politico. Many policy and politics stories are driven—or should be driven—by data. But, myself included, we cannot hit it out of the park at every plate appearance. And that is what we have from Politico today, actually last week.

The graphic focuses on the healthcare industry and its need for a larger labour force in coming years as the baby boomers continue to age and start to retire. If their own doctors retire along with them, who will be their new doctors?

But there are two components of the graphic on which I want to focus. The first is the projection of the number of registered nurses (RNs) in 2024 compared to a 2014 baseline.

We need more. Just more.
We need more. Just more.

The story focuses on the future condition, but that colour is set to the lighter green thus drawing the reader’s eyes to the 2014 data point. Flipping those two colours would shift the focus of the chart to the 2024 timeframe, which would better match the text above.

Then we have the design decision to include a line chart for the growth rate, presumably total, for each category of RN from 2014 to 2024. The problem is that the chart itself does not sit on any baseline. While I do not care for the dual axis chart, that format at least keeps an axis legend on the right side of the chart. (You still have the problem of implying certain things based on what scale you choose to use relative to the first data series.) Here, because there is no chart lines associated with the growth data, I wonder if a table below the x-axis labels would be more efficient? Home health care, a very small category, will have the highest growth (a small change from a small base will beat the same small change or even slightly bigger changes from a far larger base) but the eye has the furthest to travel to reach the 61% number from the top of the bars or the labelling.

The other component I wanted to discuss is the scatter plot that compares the number of jobs to their average salary.

Bursting these bubbles…
Bursting these bubbles…

But this is a bubble chart, not a scatter plot, and so we have a third variable encoded in the size of the dot/bubble. The first thing I looked for was a scale for the size of the circles. What magnitude is the RN circle vs. the Personal Care Aides circle? There is none, but unfortunately that seems to be a common practice with bubble chart. But after failing to find that, I noticed that the circles decrease in size from right to left. That was when I looked to the legend and saw the y-axis in numbers of jobs and the x-axis in average salary. But then the circles are sized in proportion to the average salary of each profession to the other. In other words, the circles are basically re-plotting the x-axis. The physical therapist circle should be roughly twice as large, by area, than the vocational nurses. But we can also just see by the x-axis coordinates. The bubble chart-ness of the chart is unnecessary and the data could be told more clearly by stripping that away and making a straight-up scatter plot where all the circles are sized the same.

Credit for the piece goes to Christina Animashaun.

North Korea’s Missile Programme

Another week, another batch of news and posturing from North Korea. So I was delighted to see last week a post from Politico exploring the history of the North Korean missile programme with data visualisation.

Shall we play a game?
Shall we play a game?

This kind of maps are my favourite for these types of stories. So often people get locked into this idea of a Mercator or Robinson projection and lines moving right/left or east/west on a map. Instead the world is a globe and the missiles or airplanes or birds or whatever will fly in circles over the poles if it’s easier.

Credit for the piece goes to the Politico graphics department.

Blue Dog Democrats

Last week I mentioned that it appeared Politico was running with articles featuring data visualisation. Just this morning I stumbled upon another article, this one about the Blue Dog Democrats. For those that do not know, Blue Dogs are basically a more conservative Democrat and were the remnants of the Democratic south. But in 2010, they got all but wiped out. This article looks at how and where they might just be coming back.

Blue Dogs were largely a faction of the party drawing from the South
Blue Dogs were largely a faction of the party drawing from the South

If this trend of data-driven and visualised content continues, the Politico could be doing some interesting work over the next year. By then we will be in a rather intense mid-term cycle and there might be some political news to coverage.

Credit for the piece goes to the Politico graphics department.

Brexit’s Impact on Irish Shipping

Today’s post is, I think, the first time I’ve featured the Politico on my blog. Politico is, I confess, a regular part of my daily media diet. But I never thought of it as a great publication for data visualisation. Maybe that is changing?

Anyway, today’s post highlights an article on how the Irish shipping/logistics industry could be affected by Brexit. To do so, they looked at data sets including destinations, port volume, and travel times. Basically, the imposition of customs controls at the Irish border will mean increased travelling times, which are not so great for time-sensitive shipments.

This screenshot if of an animated .gif showing how pre-Brexit transit was conducted through the UK to English Channel ports and then on into the continent. Post-Brexit, to maintain freedom of movement, freight would have to transit the Irish Sea and then the English Channel before arriving on the continent. The piece continues with a few other charts.

Brexit strikes again
Brexit strikes again

My only question would be, is the animation necessary? From the scale of the graphic—it is rather large—we can see an abstracted shape of the European coastlines—that is to say it’s rather angular. I wonder if a tighter cropping on the route and then subdividing the space into three different ‘options’ would have been at least as equally effective.

Credit for the piece goes to Politico’s graphics department.