Expressive Visualization, Updated Presidents Chart

I used the Presidential Demographics chart in my talk at the Impact of Social Data Visualization panel at InfoVis 2007, and got some interesting responses to that. There is some interest in printing this out, so I have made a new version of the chart that is now also available as a PDF. Stephen Few used Joseph Berk’s term “interocular traumatic impact” – a visualization that hits you between the eyes – to describe it. And this is exactly what visualization can do extremely effectively: visual communication, and not just of data.

Visualization can tell a story, just like a comic/graphic novel or a silent movie can. Expressive visualization takes the idea of visualization as visual communication further, and uses almost exclusively visual means to make a point. And it doesn’t even have to be dumbed down or prettied up for that purpose: a simple chart can be much more effective in delivering such a message.

Most of us have probably seen cases where a visualization made one point stand out, even if that may not have been the most important one. We need to learn to control the strength of a visualization, and make it work for us.

I am interested in finding more examples of visualizations that make a point – political or not. Any pointers would be appreciated.

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Robert Kosara

Robert Kosara is Senior Research Scientist at Tableau Software, and formerly Associate Professor of Computer Science. His research focus is the communication of data using visualization. In addition to blogging, Robert also runs and tweets.

5 thoughts on “Expressive Visualization, Updated Presidents Chart”

  1. I do like your term "expressive", it is quite imaginative and open.
    We tried to coin this phenomenon as "data focus", ranging from "intrinsic" (highlighting patterns "in" the data) to "extrinsic" (reaching "outside" the data, emphasizing a deeper meaning about "what" the data represents, sometimes even the visualization itself). So you might be interested in those visualizations on the top half of the model presented at

    Hope this helps.

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