First Global Census of Marine Life

In: Environment/weather Graphic Design (bad) Interactive Maps Science

3 Aug 2010

I think this project has been cursed by the data visualization gods. First, take a look at the Guardian’s interactive map below. There’s no legend to explain the colors, and the popups show a picture of just one animal (which they apparently included only because they happen to have a nice picture of it). The only information conveyed here at all is in the small bubbles at the bottom  — which aren’t labeled and are presumably in percent of all marine life, but you can’t be sure because they don’t add up to 100%.

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So I tracked down the original study, and their project map is actually worse! In addition to being quite possibly the most butt-ugly acronym ridden map I’ve ever seen, it has a bizarre infinity scrolling feature that allows you to view five earths at once.

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But wait, there’s more: a huge interactive rotating globe that takes up 3/4s of the screen. See the tiny red dots on the map? – those are how you call up the related info that is squeezed into the small box on the left.  There are other critiques, but I think I’ve picked on this poor project enough.

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All of this is a shame, of course, because it looks like a very worthwhile project that has accomplished a lot of valuable work. Here is the Guardian’s related article, and the project’s press release.

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