There are lots of great new books out there about graphics and data visualization. But have you ever taken a look at some that were written back before computer software? It turns out that most of these chart and visualization methods have been around for decades – it’s just that they used to draw them by hand.
I highly recommend these books to anyone. Besides the impressive graphics and nostalgia values, the writing quality and content advice are excellent – regardless of what century you are in.
Graphic Methods for Presenting Facts, Willard Cope Brinton (1914). Brinton not only presents a variety of graph types, he goes into quite a bit of detail on the decisions that go into making a well designed chart. Note the author’s sarcastic review of the first chart below – Ha!
In 1939, Brinton released a greatly expanded version of his book, entitled Graphic Presentation, which covers an amazing breadth of graphic methods (520 pages with separate chapters for 59 different graph types!) – including these beauties:
Sections on chart elements and color choice:
Who knew they were drawing 3d curve charts in 1939?:
Next up, Calvin Schmid’s 1954 Handbook of Graphic Presentation. Schmid focused a lot on the proper use of design elements, including some draftsmanship tips. It’s amusing how many of the examples resemble charts from recent policy debates:
Others are a bit more dated:
Note: if you want to read these on your iPad (like I did), you should follow the directions at this link (the PDF files available directly from the Archive do not always display properly).
Plan your junkets now!
(via Cool Infographics)
Robert Kosara examines alternatives to the classic (useless) node-link hairball network diagram.
While poking around the World Economic Forum’s website I came across this talk by Adam Bly from 2011 about the important uses of data visualization to policy makers:
This is an example of why you keep checking back on mediocre data visualization tools. The last time I looked at the OECD’s explorer, it was slow, kinda clunky, and not very innovative. This morning I took another look. Wow! It has interactive choropleth maps, motion scatter plots, profile plots, time graphs, and cool histogram tools – and all of them have excellent filters and fine tuning controls, can be viewed over time, are smoothly animated and you’re allowed to load your own data.
But wait! There’s more! MUCH more! It turns out the explorer is just one tool created by the Swedish National Center for Visual Analytics (NCVA), who have constructed a set of Geovisual Analytics Visualization (GAV) Flash tools, including what you need to create your own statistics explorer. The NCVA also has a spin-off company that sells a desktop version of the explorer, a Flow Map explorer that draws proportionate arrows on maps to track flows, and a multi-dimensional explorer (which I only played with a little – but is very very cool).
Check out the scatter tables in the MDIM as a way to select data in the other two panels:
I’m almost embarrassed I haven’t seen these before. On the other hand, I love that there is such innovation going on – all the time.
A nice compilation post over at Owni.eu
Aesthetically this is obviously quite nice. The roll-over data is snappy quick. The color selection is clear and intuitive. But there’s something about these nested arc charts that I just don’t like – they don’t seem like a very good way to illustrate historical data. It was created as a simple example of the Axiis data visualization framework – which offers several other Flex based graphic tools. (Hat tip to Ryan C for sending this along!)
Here’s an example of how more isn’t always better. Compare the interactive presentation of retail sales data below to the static version – both from the Wall Street Journal. In my opinion the static version presents the information in a much clearer and usable format. The only thing it’s missing is a chart for “total retail sales”. Regarding the interactive version, I’ve never liked stacked bar charts over time unless they illustrate very clear trends – with this many similar segments I think they are pretty silly (though the ability to drill down does alleviate this a smidgeon). (related article)
One year and 3888 photos of the same scenery in one picture:
Globe on a drop of water: (how it’s done)
Color combining the rainbow by spinning an umbrella:
David Imus created a new map of the United States by applying careful attention to details, design, and symbology. The figure below compares Imus’ version (on the right) to National Geographics (left). An article over at Slate highlights some of the design choices Imus made, as does a pamphlet from Imus’ website. Personally, I think it’s great that people are re-examining the “standard” way to map things, and love the way Imus squeezed in as much information as possible, without sacrificing clarity – on the other hand, it apparently took him two years and over 6,000 hours to complete. Yikes!
Megan McArdle critques the content of several info-posters in an article over at The Atlantic". It’s sort of shooting fish in a barrel, considering the infogrpaphics she chose – but I give her props for taking the time to double check the data.
An addictive collection of beautiful charts, graphs, maps, and interactive data visualization toys -- on topics from around the world.