Merry F*%#-ing Christmas

The title is from perhaps my favourite Christmas song

But the song relates to this post because earlier this week the print design blog For Print Only featured my annual Christmas card. I typically design and print a card to mail (as in a physical copy through the postal service, none of that e-card non-sense) to my friends and family. This past year I took to infographics to explore the realm of Santa and his North Pole dictatorship.

My Christmas Card
My Christmas Card

Credit for the photographs goes to FPO.

French Politics, Elections, and Data Visualisations.

The US is not the only country with elections in 2012. Actually quite a few other places have had them, will have them, or are in the midst of having them. The latter includes France, which had the first round of its presidential election earlier this week.

To put it simply, France has a first round to narrow the whole field to just two candidates—lots of democracies outside the US have multiple party systems that mean more than just two parties—and then a second round between the last two. Nicholas Sarkozy was thought likely to win the first round and then lose the second, but he instead lost the first outright. He still isn’t expected to do well in two weeks’ time. But, the French media of course produce infographics just as US, Canadian, and British media do. Except unlike the last three, French infographics tend to be in French and I tend to not read them because, well, I cannot.

But pictures and colours make it easier. Socialists like red. Centre-right like blue.

From Le Figaro comes a map of the results. The island-looking thing on the right is Paris, beneath that Corsica, and then the bottom are the various overseas territories and departments that all vote.

Election results by French department
Election results by French department

The question with French presidential elections—and in fact any country that has run-off elections—is what happens to the voters of the losers? For whom will they vote in the second round? Le Figaro also has an interactive piece that allows the user to play out different scenarios based on how many voters will not show up and of those who do, how they split their vote. Again, it’s in French, so I had to assume some things when playing around with the controls and then know a few things about French politics.

Scenario builder for Round 2
Scenario builder for Round 2

From Le Monde, another respected French media source that I have featured on more than one occasion, come some simpler visualisations of the results but with some nice features for comparison. The first is obviously a look at the 2007 results. (Anybody recall Segolene Royal? Her ex-husband/partner is Francois Hollande…the guy running for the Socialists this time round.)

Election results of 2007
Election results of 2007

But another interesting view is that of the results strictly from 2012’s first round.

Election results 2012, Round 1
Election results 2012, Round 1

But with the added feature of comparing those results per party to their performance in 2007.

Round 1 comparison, 2012 to 2007
Round 1 comparison, 2012 to 2007

There are always interesting things going on in politics when it comes to data visualisation and infographics. We just have to look outside the US from time to time.

Santorum Quits. Goodbye…and Thanks for all the Varicose Veins.

So Rick Santorum is now out of the race. Mitt Romney is basically now set to run against the President. But why should Santorum go out without an infographic looking back at the Republican primary race. (Since neither Newt nor Ron come even close to running the same race as Rick.)

The New York Times put out an infographic looking at Rick Santorum’s campaign. And as one can see, he did do well in the evangelical and Christian conservative heartland of the United States. It just was not quite enough to beat Romney’s supporters.

County leaders in Republican primary states
County leaders in Republican primary states

But, Santorum did manage to last longer in the race than many others have in recent years. So who knows, depending on how the election in November turns out, we may just see more of Rick in the future.

A timeline of withdrawal
A timeline of withdrawal

Follow the Money

Follow the money is almost always good advice. And in this case, the journalists over at ProPublica have done just that. They have visualised just where the campaign (and Super PAC) dollars are going using an interactive Sankey diagram.

Who pays what where
Who pays what where

And then for those interested in how this was made, ProPublica provides those details as well.

Via my colleague Lauren Beth.

Credit goes to Al Shaw, Kim Barker, and Justin Elliott.

A Timeline of Deaths in Syria

The civil war in Syria rages on. The following graphic from the New York Times accompanies the article and uses a calendar-style timeline to look at the mounting death toll. The visualisation type appears more and more often for time-based data sets shaped around days; we all (usually) understand how calendars work and are shaped.

In this particular case, specific key dates and images are brought out of the timeline and featured on the left. These provide an additional context to the human side of the story  that may otherwise be left in the dates and deaths on the right.

A problem with such a design is the length of the year, which might preclude users of small screens from being able to see the entire year in one screen-height. I am left to wonder about whether the user can make an adjustment to a horizontally-scrolling calendar and if in the future such arrangements may better take advantage of widescreen monitors.

Syrian casualties by date
Syrian casualties by date

Senate Polarity

Earlier this month I posted about how the New York Times looked at the polarisation of the US Senate. Now the National Journal has another, similar visualisation attempting to explain the political gridlock that was picked up by the Atlantic.

Senate Polarity
Senate Polarity

For those wondering, the National Journal ranks senators on their conservativeness–liberalness by their votes and that is the plotted data.

Credit for the piece goes to the National Journal.

Politics Moves Further to the Extremes

In case you were wondering, yes, Virginia, politics in the United States are becoming more polarised. Olympia Snowe, the moderate Republican senator from Maine, is not running for re-election. And so the Senate is left without one more centrist counterweight to an extreme. To try and show how extreme, this graphic from the New York Times plots how often senators voted with their party.

Senators voting with their party
Senators voting with their party

While the chart does not have a marker for the average of each Congress, everyone can see the general trend line. Up. And up means less compromise. And less compromise means getting less done.

Examining the World’s Response to the Somalia Famine

Somalia is beset by a bevy of problems; from an Islamist insurgency that holds great swathes of the south, to the de facto independent regions of Somaliland and Puntland in the north, to the pirates operating off the coast, to the barely functional government in Mogadishu that controls only sections of the capital through the backing of an African Union peacekeeping force, to the recent famine that devastated the south of the country.

The famine, which ended formally ended only earlier this month, is the focus of an interactive piece by the Guardian. It examines how the tragedy unfolded, especially when early indicators pointed to the likelihood of a famine. Through a timeline, the piece marks out what happened when—probably important as not all readers may be familiar with the details of the disaster—atop a chart that visualises the aid given to Somalia. Other line charts describe who donated and when.

Timeline of the story and how that compares to donations
Timeline of the story and how that compares to donations

The most interesting, however, is an investigation into what (perhaps) spurred the donations. Using the same timeline as a common base, it charts when donations were made against mentions in six US and UK media outlets against Twitter mentions and Google Search Insights.

Donations overlap with media mentions
Donations overlap with media mentions

With this last bit in particular, the Guardian has attempted to use data visualisation to support an argument made in accompanying text. Often times data visualisation and infographics will simply document an event or provide facts and figures. Here, however, an attempt was made to link the aid effort to media coverage (90% of aid came to Somalia after the story broke in the media), perhaps to show causation. But, the writer admits that ultimately the visualisation can only show the overlap or correlation, which the writer further notes is itself consistent with academic debate over the existence of the “CNN effect”.

Credit for the piece goes to Claire Provost, Irene Ros, Nicola Hughes, and the Guardian Interactive Team.

Presidential Popularity

Presidents’ Day is actually Washington’s Birthday. That makes sense when you consider how Washington is still a much beloved president. And according to a recent survey, the most favoured president.

Presidential Popularity
Presidential Popularity

What is worth nothing is that most Americans know little of the 19th century presidents, save the big names like Lincoln, Grant, and (Teddy) Roosevelt. Not until the other Roosevelt (FDR) do we start seeing a decline in “Not Sure” responses. But, by far, Washington and Lincoln are the most favoured presidents.

The questions for all of us on this holiday are who’s your favourite? And how does he stack up? (Get it? Eh, chart humour.)

The Crisis in Syria

The crisis in Syria now resembles more of a civil war. The UN General Assembly has condemned the conflict and passed a resolution calling for Bashar al-Assad to step aside along with a host of other steps to resolve the conflict. However, nothing can happen until the Security Council agrees on a measure, which is still unlikely given the previous vetoes by China and Russia.

This piece from the Guardian chronologically explains what has been happening—at least as best as can be determined in the not-so-media-friendly country. As this story focuses on dates and places, a map feels natural. The designers have added some crucial details from the backstory about the ethnic complexities of the country and denoted the larger and more important urban centres.

An overview of Syria
An overview of Syria

When one clicks on a date, coloured by what part of the story is taking place, markers with text boxes overlay the original city markers and provide the user information on what happened in that city on that date. Or, if the event is more general, the box appears outside the borders.

Syria on 9 Feb 2012
Syria on 9 Feb 2012

The interface is rather simple, but works in focusing a person in on a time. Unfortunately, since much of this story can be seen through the lens of locale, e.g. the city of Homs has borne the brunt of al-Assad’s wrath, one cannot focus in on a place and then add time. For example, clicking on the marker for Homs and then seeing a chronological list of events that occurred there would also be quite useful.

Another slight improvement would be more clearly signifying the date being viewed. It does appear in the text box, but with the visual prominence of the main navigation at the top, on a few occasions when I was going through the piece, I did forget what date I was on and had brief moments of confusion.