Advertising Age’s Garrick Schmitt recently wrote that “Data Visualization Is Reinventing Online Storytelling.” He celebrates the brilliant New York Times/IBM Visualization Lab and others for “turning bits and bytes of data... into stories for our digital age.” Admittedly, the Times’ work is groundbreaking, and I applaud Many Eyes and other “visual scientists” for their valuable work in helping us see complex data in clear, useful ways. But storytelling it is not.
Tag: data visualization
Two autumns ago, Chevron, working with the Economist Group, launched Energyville as part of its "Will You Join Us" campaign. Not surprisingly, the campaign, the site, and the game drew a lot of criticism and vitriol for alleged greenwashing and hypocrisy. By posing a question the way it did, Chevron also invited negative answers (“No, I will not join you” on the blog) and word play that twisted the URL (Will you join us in protesting Chevron?). Despite all this, Chevron has persisted.
There has been much talk lately of data overload. Of marketing noise and the struggle to attract and maintain consumer attention. A weekend outdoors with my toddler reminded me this isn’t a new problem, nor is our selective attention a new response. My daughter still notices every soaring airplane. Every buzzing hedge trimmer. Every distant siren. The sights and sounds I have learned, over time, to tune out as irrelevant. When faced with data glut in the marketplace, most consumers respond like me. That is to say, they don’t respond. So how do brands help consumers see their information through the eyes of a child?
I’ve been researching interactive websites for inspiration and recently found Lovelines, an intriguing website that pulls blog messages of love and hate from the internet and posts them through an interactive, dynamic spectrum. The design is simple and elegant. It features a soft color palette of gray and pink and a pure, white page anchored by top and bottom navigation. A smart, minimalist design approach to the presentation of complex data.
The evolution of data visualization software is merging data and art, and allowing us to convey and digest complicated information in exciting new ways. But used irresponsibly, these technologies have the potential to usher in a new wave of “data porn,” where the dazzle trumps the data.
When I went online to shop for a laptop this summer, I faced a blizzard of choices. Was an ultralight worth the price, or would a heavier model do? Did I need a big screen, or would it make the computer a pain to lug around? As I flipped from page to page reading screenfuls of specs, the options baffled me. So I picked up a different thinking tool: a crayon.
Journalists are coping with the rising information flood by borrowing data visualization techniques from computer scientists, researchers and artists. Some newsrooms are already beginning to retool their staffs and systems to prepare for a future in which data becomes a medium. But how do we communicate with data, how can traditional narratives be fused with sophisticated, interactive information displays?
David McCandless turns complex data sets (like worldwide military spending, media buzz, Facebook status updates) into beautiful, simple diagrams that tease out unseen patterns and connections. Good design, he suggests, is the best way to navigate information glut -- and it may just change the way we see the world.
In the realm of marketing, Gatorade is probably best known for splashy commercials featuring some of the world’s most famous athletes. However, a new effort behind the scenes of the PepsiCo-owned sports drink maker is putting social media quite literally at the center of the way Gatorade approaches marketing. The company recently created the Gatorade Mission Control Center inside of its Chicago headquarters, a room that sits in the middle of the marketing department and could best be thought of as a war room for monitoring the brand in real-time across social media.
Montreal-based visualization firm FFunction has developed a concept packaging design for representing nutritional facts on consumable products. The design focuses on giving consumers at-a-glance information in a way that uncovers nutritional value (or lack of) normally obscured in text.
Data visualization is cool. It's also becoming ever more useful, as the vibrant online community of data visualizers (programmers, designers, artists, and statisticians — sometimes all in one person) grows and the tools to execute their visions improve. Jeff Clark is part of this community. He, like many data visualization enthusiasts, fell into it after being inspired by pioneer Martin Wattenberg's landmark treemap that visualized the stock market. Clark's latest work shows much promise. He's built four engines that visualize that giant pile of data known as Twitter. All four basically search words used in tweets, then look for relationships to other words or to other Tweeters. They function in almost real time.
Italian writer, blogger and photographer Vincenzo Cosenza has for the second time put together a visualization that shows the most popular social networks around the world on a map, based on the most recent traffic data (December 2009) as measured by Alexa & Google Trends for Websites.
The good news: data from governments and other organizations is increasingly open and online. The bad news: it's rather dull. The result? A booming interest in data visualization, which can transform boring stats into compelling graphical presentations explaining our world. "Institutions, governments and companies more and more are releasing and making publicly available their own data sets," notes Manuel Lima, an interaction designer and data visualization expert. But while "we are collecting data like maniacs," he adds, "our ability to gather data is much greater than our ability to make sense of that data."
What's the first thing that goes through your mind when someone says the word "data"? For many of us, the first image is line graphs, pie charts and spreadsheets with columns and rows full of numbers that leave you bleary-eyed and a bit dazed. But what if someone were to say data can also mean what you post on Facebook and Twitter, the ratings you gave a restaurant, the photos you uploaded to Flickr or even, perhaps, what you feel. A bit of a reach? Not anymore. An emerging set of tools is making it easier than ever to track and compile all sorts of "data" and display it in a way that's relatively easy to understand.
This is Cambridge, Massachusetts, one rainy autumn afternoon in 2005. Fantastic? Or totally spectacular? You be the judge. It was created by Burak Arikan and Ben Dalton at MIT's Media Lab. It designed to show the color of clothing in motion in the many neighborhoods that make up Cambridge. Arikan and Dalton rigged up cameras, capture color data and converted it to this astonishingly useful piece of data visualization. To be fair, Cambridge is not the most fashion forward place in the world. Indeed, I have seen people on the MIT campus who look as if they just walked out of explosion at Goodwill. I'm not talking hipster refusal of mainstream fashion. I'm talking completely random. This is a wonderful thing from an anthropological point of view but somewhat at odds with the clothing conventions that rule our world. So the Chief Culture Officer may not care about these data as data. The Arikan-Dalton visualization will matter more as proof of concept.
At the intersection of art and algorithm, data visualization schematically abstracts information to bring about a deeper understanding of the data, wrapping it in an element of awe. While the practice of visually representing information is arguably the foundation of all design, a newfound fascination with data visualization has been emerging.
Apple's "Wall of Applications" developed for its recent developer conference did more to demonstrate the breadth and scale of its applications than any single static ad ever could. It's a great example of the power of data as a compelling form of communication. In Apple's case, it's all about the scale of the information to signify the size of the ecosystem.
Edward Tufte combines a policy wonk's love of data with an artist's eye for beauty and a PR maestro's knack for promotion.
I've been thinking a lot recently about the growing popularity and potential of interactive data visualizations as feedback mechanisms on the world around us. Over the past few weeks, I've had the pleasure of talking with two talented designers who are both well-steeped in the information visualization space about why we're starting to see more of them and where they see it all going.
According to Abdallah Jum’ah, Saudi Aramco’s president and CEO, Aramco is the world’s largest oil producing company. And it’s the richest company in the world, worth, according to the latest estimate, $781 billion. Jum’ah gave 60 Minutes a tour of the company’s command center, where engineers scrutinize and analyze every aspect of the company’s operations on a 220-foot digital screen.
Each year on Memorial Day, tens of thousands of Americans visit Arlington National Cemetery just outside Washington to pay tribute to the men and women who died serving the United States. For people who are unable to make the trip, a new online memorial provides a unique way to honor those service members who have fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan.
You've seen them. Those tag clouds in the right-hand column of Web sites with jumbled type of varying weight and size indicating the relative usage of words. Tag clouds may be the most common example of an emerging field known as "information visualization," an offshoot of graphic design devoted to the clear display of complex information. Executive pay in relation to shareholder returns. Senate voting patterns. The geographic location of cell phones. Similarities among rock albums. Graphic designers are mapping over the known world and posting their graphic interpretations on sites like Visual Complexity.
Digital visualizer Aaron Koblin started his lecture at the 2009 OFFF in Lisbon with a quote from Bruce Schneier of the BBC: Data is the pollution of the information age. While it was a theme that seemed to be running through the OFF conference this wasn’t what he was going to talk about. He said while it’s important to be aware of the extreme abundance of data it’s ironic that his job is to use it. With the vast volume of data he argued that we can make insights that we never could have seen before. He said: “Data tells stories about our lives.”
Everything is information and information is everything. It’s the mantra of marketing in an age where people are constantly creating collectible data—all the things we do, say, use, buy, click and share are data points in the graphs of our lives. But in an increasingly visual society, pie charts and bar charts can’t begin to do justice to this wealth of information there is to digest now. Data visualization tools are helping to change the ways we look at information and audiences.
Readers have come to rely on interactive presentations to understand complicated stories, using them to zoom in on periods of time and highlight areas of interest. Yet to investigate these stories, reporters often create what amounts to handcrafted investigative art: flow charts with circles and arrows, maps shaded with highlighters and stuck with pins. More and more, though, some reporters are using data visualization tools to find the story hidden in the data. Those tools help them discover patterns and focus their reporting on particular places and times. Many of the presentations, which can have rough interfaces or less-than-sleek design, are never published.