Exploring Data Visualization #7

In this monthly series, I share a combination of cool data visualizations, useful tools and resources, and other visualization miscellany. The field of data visualization is full of experts who publish insights in books and on blogs, and I’ll be using this series to introduce you to a few of them. You can find previous posts by looking at the Exploring Data Visualization tag.

A collection of six different radar charts, each showing one student's test scores in multiple subjects

From “The Radar Chart and its Caveats” by Yan Holtz

1) Data analyst Yan Holtz and designer Conor Healy have helpfully compiled a list of visualization caveats at their site From Data to Viz. Among the common pitfalls in data visualization they discuss the use of radar charts, as in the image above.

Two elementary school floor plans generated by computer modeling, optimized to minimize traffic flow between classes and material usage. The floor plans look biological, with the hallways branching to smaller hallways and the rooms shaped as all sorts of polygons instead of rectangular.

From “Evolving Floorplans,” created by Joel Simon

2) Bioinformaticist Joel Simon “grew” an elementary school floor plan using advanced computer science methods. As he points out, “The results were biological in appearance, intriguing in character and wildly irrational in practice.” The project certainly demonstrates that computer models are only as good as the data that humans give them (in this case, there were no constraints based on architecture or engineering rules). On the other hand, imagine your school was laid out like this! Read all about the project at Simon’s website.

A demonstration of a chart makeover. The before chart shows two pie charts. Each slice of the pie chart is the percentage of U.S. population within an age group. The first pie chart is 2010, the second is 2013. The makeover, or "after" chart, is a slope graph that shows the change in millions of people within each age group, which are each represented by a line.

Chart makeover created by Patricia Manasan for Storytelling With Data

3) Want to feel inspired? Dozens of people submitted data visualization makeovers to Storytelling With Data. Take a look at what people changed for ideas about how to make your own visualizations better.

I hope you enjoyed this data visualization news! If you have any data visualization questions, please feel free to email me and set up an appointment at the Scholarly Commons.

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