Beyond the Knee-Jerk Reaction

Hard Work, Wired September 2014

There is a tendency to just reflexively make fun of certain types of charts, in particular pie charts and 3D charts. While that is often justified, there are also exceptions. Not all pie charts are bad, and not all 3D charts are terrible. But to spot those outliers, we have to suppress the knee-jerk reflex and give them a moment of thought before ripping them apart.

The Semantics of the Y Axis

Up World Cup stats

The vertical axis is not just important because it embodies one of the most important visual properties, but also because it is much more semantically loaded than the horizontal. Not only does the right choice of mapping help with reading a chart, it can also be confuse people if done wrong.

My Favorite Charts

Why Is Her Paycheck Smaller?

There are many charts I hate, because they’re badly done, sloppy, meaningless, deceiving, ugly, or for any number of other reasons. But then there are the ones I keep coming back to because they’re just so clear, well-designed, and effective.

All of these are a few years old. Like a fine wine analogy that I could insert here, it probably takes a while for a chart to come up again and again in conversation and when looking for examples to realize how good it is.

Review: Kraak, Mapping Time

Kraak, Mapping Time

Can you write an entire book about a single chart? Even if that chart is supposedly the best one ever? Menno-Jan Kraak’s new book, Mapping Time: Illustrated by Minard’s Map of Napoleon’s Russian Campaign of 1812, discusses the historical context of Minard’s work, his, life, and walks through a number of design exercises to show the same or similar data in different ways.

Data Stories Episode About Data Storytelling

Data Stories, Episode 35

How is it possible that it has taken a podcast called Data Stories 35 episodes to get to the topic of data storytelling? Alberto Cairo and I helped get the topic straightened out, and I think we even convinced Moritz that stories are not the enemy of exploration. It was a fun episode to record, and it touches on many interesting topics.

Story: A Definition

dictionary

What makes a story? What does a story do? In part one of this little series, I argued that stories and worlds are not opposites, but complements. In this part, I try to explain the differences between worlds and stories, and present a definition.

Stories Are Gateways Into Worlds

opendoor

Moritz Stefaner recently wrote a posting titled Worlds, not stories. He basically argues that while there is a clear role for the designer of a visualization, the result should be a world that users can explore, rather than a story that they’re told. I have a few things to say about this, and will do so in two parts. This is part one.

The Mirrored Line Chart Is A Bad Idea

Worker Benefits

The mirrored line chart is a pet peeve of mine. It’s very common close to elections when there are two parties or candidates: one’s gains are at the other’s expense. But it becomes even more egregious when there are two categories that have to sum up to 100% by their very definition.

The State of Information Visualization, 2014

The Oregonian, Trimet's Long Days

2013 was another exciting year for visualization. Between many new developments in data storytelling, a new wave of news graphics, new visualization blogs, better automated infographics, and visuals designed to hit you hard, it is difficult to decide what was most important. Here is a look back, and some ideas about where we’re going.