Glorious Data Visualizations for Your Friday

If you’ve read here for more than a hot minute, you’ll know that I love me some data visualization.

This love affair dates back to when Paul (@ppedrazzi) pointed me to Hans Rosling’s (@hansrosling) first TED talk. I’m sure Hans has inspired an enormous city of people by now, judging by the 8 million plus views his TED talk has garnered. Sure, those aren’t unique view, but even so.

There’s an interesting meta-project: visualize the people influenced by various visualization experts, like a coaching tree or something.


Classic comic from xkcd, used under CC 2.5

Back on track, if you haven’t yet, watch the BBC documentary on him, “The Joy of Stats,” fantastic stuff, or if you have seen it, watch it again.

As luck would have it, one area of specialization of our newest team members is, wait for it, data visualization.

Last week, I got to see them in action in a full-day workshop on data visualization, which was eye-opening and very informative.

I’m hoping to get a few blog posts out of them on the subject, and while we wait, I wanted to share some interesting examples we’ve been throwing around in email.

I started the conversation with xkcd because, of course I did. Randal Munroe’s epic comic isn’t usually mentioned as a source for data visualizations, but if you read it, you’ll know that he has a knack for exactly that. Checking out the Google Image search for “xkcd data visualization” reminded me of just how many graphs, charts, maps, etc. Randal has produced over the years.

I also discovered that someone has created a D3 chart library as an homage to the xkcd style.

Anyway, two of my favorite xkcd visualizations are recent, possibly a function of my failing memory and not coincidence, Pixels and Click and Drag.

I probably spent 10 minutes zooming into Pixels, trying to find the bottom; being small-minded, I gave up pretty early on Click and Drag, assuming it was small. It’s not.

How much time did you spend, cough, waste, on these?

During our conversation, a couple interesting examples have come back to me, both worth sharing.

First is Art of the Title, dedicated to the opening credits of various films. In a very specific way, opening credits are data visualizations; they set the mood for the film and name the people responsible for it.

Second is Scale of the Universe, which is self-explanatory and addictive.

So, there you go. Enjoy investigating those two and watch this space for more visualization content.

And find the comments.




  1. The thing that strikes me about Pixels, is that it gives you a sense of “zooming” into the comic. You feel like you’re actually going deeper into the layers of the comic, through the use of perspective- I especially liked the ones in space where it made you feel like you were zooming through the stars. I think that current implementations of drilldowns and master/detail pages don’t really convey that experience of burrowing deeper into your data, so the user misses out on that alluring sense of exploration.

  2. @Joyce: Agreed, Pixels is very immersive. Perhaps John can reimagine drilldowns and master/detail tables w this experience in mind 😉

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