Blog Archives

Beyond the Knee-Jerk Reaction

September 16, 2014
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Beyond the Knee-Jerk Reaction

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.

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The Semantics of the Y Axis

September 8, 2014
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The Semantics of the Y Axis

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. It’s not a coincidence […]

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My Favorite Charts

September 4, 2014
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My Favorite Charts

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…

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What is Data Journalism?

July 30, 2014
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What is Data Journalism?

Is a data journalist one who unearths the data, who finds the insights in the data, who finds the right way to visually communicate the data? The answer is, of course, all three. But let’s tease them apart and look at each separately. Unearthing the Data First, the data has to be found. And finding, […]

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Putting Data Into Context

July 24, 2014
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Putting Data Into Context

Raw numbers are easy to report and analyze, but without the proper context, they can be misleading. Is the effect you’re seeing real, or a simple result of the underlying, obvious distribution? Too many analyses and news stories end up reporting things we already know. This is a particular issue with data that has a […]

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Review: Kraak, Mapping Time

June 26, 2014
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Review: 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.

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When Bars Point Down

June 16, 2014
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When Bars Point Down

It’s so simple it feels entirely trivial: bars in a bar chart pointing down instead of up. But the effect can be striking. And it’s not as obvious when to show downward-pointing bars as it might seem. The pure visualization point of view is that bars point up for positive numbers and down for negative […]

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Data Stories Episode About Data Storytelling

April 17, 2014
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Data Stories Episode About Data Storytelling

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.

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Review: Manuel Lima, The Book of Trees

April 14, 2014
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Review: Manuel Lima, The Book of Trees

Trees. They’re everywhere. And not just in the physical world, but in data visualization and knowledge representation as well. This is not a new phenomenon, it goes back thousands of years. Manuel Lima’s new book, The Book of Trees, gives an overview. Setting Expectations This review is an example of priming. The first time I […]

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Story: A Definition

April 7, 2014
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Story: A Definition

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.

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