Paper: An Evaluation of the Impact of Visual Embellishments in Bar Charts

Information graphics often use variations and embellishments of standard charts that may distort the way people read the data. But how bad are these distortions really? In a paper to be presented at EuroVis this week, Drew Skau, Lane Harrison, and I tested their effects in an experiment. Continue reading Paper: An Evaluation of the Impact of Visual Embellishments in Bar Charts

Video: The Danger of Glitziness

Wayne Lytle created this video about the Viz-O-Matic that provides lots of tools to make visualization glitzier. It’s a nice little spoof, and a throwback to the computer graphics of the early 1990s (it was made for SIGGRAPH 1993). This video was brought up in a discussion about storytelling at CHI last week, though I don’t think that its lessons are very deep on that subject.

Conference Report: CHI 2015

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the CHI 2015 conference in Seoul, South Korea. CHI technically stands for Computer-Human Interaction, but it has become a name rather than an acronym in recent years. And CHI’s scope is very broad, it covers many areas that are not strictly part of HCI (Human-Computer Interaction – why use one acronym when you can have two?). Continue reading Conference Report: CHI 2015

Link: The Power of Wee Things

Lena Groeger (of ProPublica) has written a beautiful piece about the Power of Wee Things. She talks about using small things, multiples, and units to display data and get people interested. The article goes through many, many examples covering many different areas and ideas. She also gave a great talk on the topic at OpenVis 2014.

On a somewhat related note, Jake Harris wrote about the importance of individual items in data journalism and visualization, and how to connect with them. The two pieces work very well together to illustrate a way of visualizing data that is often overlooked.

Paper: ISOTYPE Visualization – Working Memory, Performance, and Engagement with Pictographs

Unit charts are not common in visualization, and they are often considered a bad idea. The same is true for using shapes other than rectangles. Neither is based on much actual research, however. In a new paper, we look at the specific example of ISOTYPE-style charts – and find them to be quite effective.

Continue reading Paper: ISOTYPE Visualization – Working Memory, Performance, and Engagement with Pictographs

Link: Design and Redesign in Data Visualization

Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg have written a wonderful piece titled Design and Redesign in Data Visualization about criticism in data visualization. They thoughtfully analyze the practice and point out some of the issues when people create redesigns, including intellectual honesty and perfect hindsight.

They then go on to define some “rules of engagement” for a more reasonable approach to redesign. They argue for a kinder, more respectful, and more balanced process. Their ideas are informed by the critique in design and certainly make a lot of sense for visualization. Continue reading Link: Design and Redesign in Data Visualization

Link: Dear Data

Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec are collaborating on a clever and beautiful new project they call Dear Data (Twitter account). Every week, they are sending post cards to each other with hand-drawn visualizations of data they have gathered: public transportation, ways they communicate, etc.

Giorgia and Stefanie are two of the most interesting people working in data visualization/design/art right now. Both are also incredibly skilled and creative designers, well worth watching.

Link: Data Journalism in the 19th Century

Scott Klein of ProPublica has written a great story about an early use of data in journalism, and Horace Greeley, the colorful journalist behind it. Greeley found an issue and then gathered the data to show the extent of the problem. This is not unlike today.

In Greeley’s case, the issue was how much money members of Congress were paid for their travels to their home states, despite modern conveniences like railroads that made those journeys much faster than they had been in the past.

The story is very well written and represents an important piece of history and context for today’s practice of data journalism.