Highlighting data viz best practices around the web

Monday, February 4, 2019

Australian Drought

Source: Thompson Reuters
Author: Simon Scarr, Jin Wu, Weiyi Cai and Chris Inton

Best Practices:
  • Logical colour scales
  • Clear annotations to highlight key findings
  • Series of maps that fit stylisticly so once the user consumes one, they understand the others
  • Strong additional chart with the line chart
  • Line chart reference banding to show farming periods
  • Use of videos to humanise the data / set context further
Recommended Enhancements: 
  • More complimentary charting to show additional angles to the story (build on the line chart at the bottom of the article
  • Being able to overlay some of the maps to add further exploratory analysis

Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Longest Government Shutdowns in America

Source: New York Times

Best Practices:
  • Great use case for a unit chart (my screen shot seems to have messed that up a bit)
  • Using color to highlight the focus of the story
  • Sorting from largest to smallest
  • Including the start date for context
  • Including notes for clarification
  • Very easy to understand

Recommended Enhancements:
  • Needs a title
  • Were there any data sources?
  • Who's the author?

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

US Immigration by Origin at Birth

Source: National Geographic
Authors: Pedro M. Cruz and John Wihbey

Best Practices
  • Great use of explanation charts in the bottom left and right of the view
  • Visualisation uses a method that most people will be familiar with - ie looking at tree-rings to understand growth over time
  • Circular nature mimics the globe to show a logical direction to the immgrants birth origin.
  • Clear colour scheme but complementary colour palette that doesn't sway / demonstrate political opinion on migration
  • Great 'chunking' of data in decades (tree rings) and '00s of people as individual lines
Recommended Enhancements
  • Show a simple trend of immigration over time to suppliment overall migration patterns
  • Provide some absolute values to quantify migration numbers
  • Larger explainers as I needed to zoom in a lot on my browser to check what it was showing

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

LeBron James at 34

Firstly, I would like to thank Andy for letting me contribute to this blog. There are loads of great examples of fantastic data visualisation and I’m looking forward to introducing you to some more. Politics, business and sport will probably form most of my submissions as that is the media I consume but I’m looking forward to sharing what I find along with a critique of what works so well about the piece. 

So what is my first piece you ask? Well it goes to one of my great inspirations, Kirk Goldsberry. If you have ever heard me talk, you will have heard me talk about how Goldberry’s shot distribution chart made a huge impression on me and his new work does also. 

Source: Twitter

Best Practices

  • Clear BANs (Big A** Numbers) to act as the colour legend
  • BANs setting a strong context for shots taken at each franchise
  • Neon colours reminiscent of this sweet alternative jersey for Miami (one of James’ former teams) this year
(image from: www.themiamiheatstore.com)
  • Tiny data points add well to show true shot location in clusters
  • Title clear for fans to perceive what the chart shows
  • Career context set by text at the bottom of the view
  • Those long Lakers three points (beyond the long arc) are a current trending topic in the NBA and show up here
  • Team logos reduce the amount of text to read

Recommend Enhancements

  • Doesn’t show free throw location - after the controversy this year of James overstepping the free throw line this would be a fun addition
  • BANs don’t show percentage accuracy so each person has to think about overall accuracy
  • Would love interactive filters to flick between the teams
  • Ability to filter between made and missed shots

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Who Earns More Income in American Households?

Source: FlowingData
Author: Nathan Yau

Best Practices:
  • Using distinct colors for the genders
  • Using shading for density
  • Including BANs for the overall percentages
  • Simple, effective axis labels
  • Switching years by clicking on buttons for each year
  • Title clearly tells us what the viz is about
  • Using the sub-title to give more detail
  • Making the diagonal where the numbers are the same a single solid color so that the genders are separated
  • Blocks are each $5K and the labels are every $25K; this keeps the viz uncluttered
  • Great use of a heatmap

Recommended Enhancements:
  • Include tooltips so that you can see the actual values
  • Link to the source data

Thursday, June 14, 2018

How the Flu Spread Across the Us This Year

DesignerElla Koeze

Best Practices:
  • Great use of small multiple maps
  • Color legend effectively shows the severity categories
  • Including the dates above each map
  • Making each map the same length of time (one week)
  • Bright red really pops
  • Including the source at the bottom
Recommended Enhancements:
  • You have to read the subtitle several times to make sense of what it means (at least I did).
  • I would have the subtitle read "Influenza level by state*", then have a footnote at the bottom with the rest of the description.
  • Why isn't the designer's name credited on the chart?

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Departed: Britain’s Government Is Breaking Records for Upheaval

Best Practices:
  • Great use case for stepped lines
  • Using highlighting for the UK
  • Emphasizing the latest party in bold
  • Including other governments for context in the background
  • Using a common baseline on the x-axis
  • Showing the y-axis on the right to make it more supplementary to the chart
  • Including the leader and years they were in leadership on the ends of the lines
  • Citing sources in the footer
  • Defining what "exits" means in the footer
  • Great chart dimensions
Recommended Enhancements:
  • Consider a more engaging title, though I do like a good pun
  • Would the orange lines look better without the white halo?

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Bussed Out | How America Moves Its Homeless

Source: The Guardian
Authors: Nadieh Bremer, Shirley Wu

Best Practices:
  • One of the most impactful pieces of storytelling with data you will ever see
  • Minimal use of color
  • Excellent use of contrast through highlighting and fading
  • Incredible animations (be sure to look at the on the original article)
  • Great sourcing and notes about the methodology below the article
Recommended Enhancements:
  • Make the data available so others can create their own visuals and spread the story

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Economically and Physically, Blackpool is Unwell

Source: Financial Times
Author: John Burn-Murdoch

Best Practices:

  • Great title and use of color in the title so that a color legend is necessary
  • Each chart title is perfectly worded; not too brief, not too long
  • Love the labeling of the lines
  • Including the value of the gaps at the start and end of the line so that the reader doesn't have to do the math in their head.
  • Making the Blackpool line slightly thicker so that it stands out a touch more
  • Good use of annotations
  • Including key metrics that support the title and help explain the problem
  • Minimal use of gridlines on all of the charts to keep it from looking too busy

Recommended Enhancements:

  • Does the scale of the line chart (tall and skinny) over exaggerate the change?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Across the globe, personality is rated as more important than looks

Source: YouGov
Author: YouGov

Best Practices:

  • Excellent title and subtitle
  • Including the survey dates in the footer
  • Good annotations to emphasize the biggest differences
  • Including minimal axis labels then using white gridlines for every 10%; this really helps reduce clutter
  • Symbols for men and women are easy to distinguish from one another
  • Since the title refers to women's preferences, sorting the countries by women's response rate make sense

Recommended Enhancements:

  • Make it interactive so that you hover and see the percentages
  • Allow an option to sort by men's response rate, though this would distract from the title

Thursday, October 26, 2017

U.S. Interstate Highways as a Transit Map

Source: Visual Capitalist
Author: Cameron Booth

Best Practices:
  • Everyone loves a good subway map, the idea to create one for the Interstate System is pure genius!
  • Very clean, very simple map
  • Terrific labeling throughout
  • Nice indicators for junctions and the ends of lines, just like we see all over the world
  • Reshaping the boundaries of the US and to make the map fit
Recommended Enhancements:
  • I can't find Cameron Booth (the creator) on Twitter to give him credit.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Who Earns More Income in American Households?

Source: Flowing Data
Author: Flowing Data

Best Practices:
  • Incredible use of a heatmap for comparisons
  • Good title and subtitle that explain the viz
  • Great interactivity with the year filter
  • Using BANs to summarize the view
  • Simple, effective use of colors
  • Scaling both axes the same
  • Good axis labeling and axis titles
  • Ensuring that the salaries are adjusted to the same dollar value
Recommended Enhancements:
  • Show the value when you hover over a box

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The GOP Has Become Much More Focused on Gun Rights

Source: FiveThirtyEight
Author: Harry Enten

Best Practices:
  • Uses a title that captures your attention and clearly tells you the message you will see in the chart
  • Subtitle that explains the question that was asked in the poll
  • Using colors that represent the political parties
  • Labeling the lines, but in a non-distracting way
  • Shading the area between the lines to accentuate the gap
  • Including the source
  • Gridlines that are evenly spaced
  • Clear labeling of the axes
Recommended Enhancements:
  • I know the FiveThirtyEight brand is to use grey charts, but this would pop more with a white background.
  • Make the gridlines lighter
  • Include the value on the end of each line

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Extreme One-Day Precipitation Events

Source: Instagram
Author: Data Visual

Best Practices:
  • Simple title that tells us what the viz is about
  • Great subtitle that explains the "why"
  • Simple colors that work well together
  • Fading the yearly values into the background for context
  • Including a moving average to smooth out the chart
  • Using two percentage points on the y-axis since the values are so small
  • Overall very clean design
  • Including the data source
Recommended Enhancements:
  • Using a 9-yr moving avg is strange, but when asked, they replied by saying that what was in the data from the government, so it makes sense to use it. Normally, a 10-yr moving avg is more intuitive.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

NFL Ratings

Source: Tableau Public
Author: Luke Stanke

Best Practices:
  • Absolutely incredible design! Everything is just so!
  • Nice subtitle to explain what the data is about
  • Using a viz explainer so the scale is understood
  • Minimal use of color
  • Highlighting the selected team and keeping other teams in the view for context
  • Amazing zoom feature
  • Including an average line for context
  • Season overview chart is packed full of very useful information for NFL fans
  • Love the scaled dot plot next to the performance indicators
Recommended Enhancements:
  • Needs tooltips
  • Left align the top chart with the others
  • Reduce the font size on the axis of the top chart to match the other charts
  • Make the gridlines a touch lighter and the same grey across the charts

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Killings of Blacks by Whites Are Far More Likely to Be Ruled ‘Justifiable’

Source: The Upshot
Author: The Upshot

Best Practices:
  • Great use of a waffle chart
  • Great example of storytelling with data
  • Excellent color choices given the topic
  • Putting the explanation on the first chart, then not repeating it to keep it decluttered
  • Including the X times as likely for context
  • Scrolls on and on to accentuate the magnitude of the problem
  • Sorting the cities by the highest rate of whites killing blacks
  • Putting the percentage in bold so it stands out
  • Including sources and notes at the bottom
Recommended Enhancements:
  • Needs a title
  • Allow the reader to pick a single city

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Why it is closing time for so many London pubs

Source: The Economist
Author: The Economist Daily Charts

Best Practices:
  • Great use of a tile map
  • Including the Thames makes it easy to see areas north and south of the river
  • Labelling only the left side of each row of charts
  • Keeping the scale consistent across all charts
  • Using area charts makes the decline very obvious
  • Making a darker line for the edge of the area chart helps accentuate the trend
  • Minimal use of colors that match the Economist theme
  • Including a "how to read" chart on the upper left
  • Including the number for the number of pubs for context
  • Sizing the dots for the number of pubs helps see where more pubs are located since the chart shows percent change
Recommended Enhancements:
  • Use a more impactful title
  • Give the borough names more space so they are contained within the blue area

Thursday, July 20, 2017

How has your home price changed?

Source: The Marks Card
Author: Curtis Harris

Best Practices:
  • Title tells me exactly what I'm looking at and tells me that it's about ME
  • Placing the filters between the title and the viz encourages the user to change those first
  • Dynamic text helps summarize what we see in the viz
  • Allowing the user to pick the period to compare against
  • Good use of a reference line for the period the user selects and including a big black dot at that point
  • Making all of the calculations relative to the period selected
  • Great use of highlighting
  • Listing the time periods in reverse chronological order; good trick since most people will probably be looking at more recent periods
  • Overall beautiful, clean design
  • Amazing how-to tutorial
  • Really like the user-centric design; that is, the user can find their own story
  • Including the context of all States
  • Minimal use of color
  • Using light grey for all of the axes and things are for reference; this helps bring the data to focus
  • Nice tooltips
  • Including data source and inspiration in the footer
Recommended Enhancements:
  • The label on the end of the line doesn't need to be so precise; One decimal would be fine.
  • Give enough room on the end so that the label on the end of the highlighted line is to the right of the line; it's overlapping the other lines.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Timing of Baby Making

Source: The Pudding
Author: Amber Thomas

Best Practices:
  • Incredible interactivity
  • Amazing storytelling as your scroll down the page
  • Great use of minimal colors for highlighting
  • Great use of context
  • Nice example of stepped lines
  • Including a link to the source
  • Good placement of the filters at the top to encourage the user to use them first
  • Including event icons which update the viz based on the year you're viewing
  • Great annotations
Recommended Enhancements:
  • Could use a more impactful title

Thursday, June 22, 2017

How Electoral College Representation Has Changed Over Time

Source: Washington Post
Author: Denise Lu

Best Practices:
  • Nice use of a timeline and a tile map
  • Using two distinct colors
  • Using colors that have nothing to do with political parties
  • Good annotations
  • Show the outliers really well
  • Labeling each State
  • Great "how to read" chart at the top
  • Very easy to understand
  • State comparisons are easy
  • Context included both in time and by State
Recommended Enhancements:
  • Needs a title
  • Include the latest over- or underrepresentation next to the State label
  • Include the source

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Difference Between the Warriors and Cavaliers This Season Is Striking

Source: Business Insider
Author: Diana Yukari

Best Practices:
  • Including a + and - on the scale
  • Making the zero line slightly more bold
  • Excellent example of a simple line chart that tells a compelling story
  • Including the value on the end of the line
  • Using the team colors for each line
  • Including the source
  • Including axis lines to guide the eye
  • Counting games by 5 on the x-axis
  • Using nice round numbers on the y-axis
Recommended Enhancements:
  • The title of the article should be the title of the viz. The title as-is is pretty boring and doesn't tell the story.
  • The y-axis numbers could be small and grey like the x-axis.
  • Including an axis title on the x-axis. 
  • Put the team names on the end of the line as well.
  • Match the color of the labels to the color of the line.
  • Push the gridlines to the back (it cut through the mark label at the top)

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Breweries Opened per 100,000 People

Source: The Pudding
Author: Russell Goldenberg

Best Practices:
  • Really nice small multiples layout
  • Minimal labeling on the axes
  • Sorting in a z-pattern
  • Coloring the area chart from largest to smallest to help accentuate the sorting
  • It's about beer! What's not to love?
  • Nice subtitle that explains the sorting
  • Good use of spacing between the states
  • Scaling all charts the same
  • All of the colors work well together; I'm definitely borrowing this color scheme.
Recommended Enhancements:
  • Use a stronger, more meaningful title
  • No interactivity; I can't see any individual values when I hover
  • Include a summary below each state label so we know the total breweries opened per capita

Thursday, May 25, 2017

How UK Savings Compare to the Rest of the European Union Countries?

Source: Points of Viz
Author: Pablo Gomez

Best Practices:
  • Nice title and subtitle that tell me what I'm seeing
  • Using a question in the subtitle
  • Highlighting the country of interest
  • Having all over countries in light grey for context
  • Including a description of the metric
  • Including a link to the data source
  • Excellent example of minimal use of color
  • Light axes that don't distract
  • Nice tooltips
  • Very Cole Nussbaumer style, which is always good!
Recommended Enhancements:
  • 1970 is cut off a bit
  • Include the latest value on the end of the line; if seeing this as static, you don't know the latest value.
  • Match the blue in the title to the blue in the line

Thursday, May 18, 2017

When Fatal Crashes Happened

SourceFlowing Data
Author: Nathan Yau

Best Practices:
  • Great use of ordered colors that scale from best to worst
  • Great example of a heatmap
  • Great overall layout
  • Including interactivity to allow the user to explore what they might be interested in
  • Abbreviating some of the month names to save space
  • Labeling only the 12 o'clock hours am/pm
  • Every pixel has a purpose
  • Love the Inconsolat font!
  • Designing the viz in a way that doesn't require any instruction; everything is intuitive due to the design
  • Nice title that captures your attention
  • Subtitle that tells us how to interpret the viz
Recommended Enhancements:
  • Include the values in the tooltips

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Modelling France’s Presidential Election

SourceThe Economist
Author: Graphic Detail

Best Practices:
  • Great use of colors that are easily distinguished from one another
  • Including the dots for each poll as context in the background
  • Great labeling
  • Including a reference line for the date of the latest polls
  • Labeling the end of each line
  • Every pixel means something; there's nothing extra
  • Very easy to read and understand
  • The FIRST ROUND text does a nice job of dividing the viz into a new section
  • Including images of the candidates (I only include the first two in the image above)
  • Including the candidates' party and a brief description of them
  • Beautiful histograms
  • Nice big numbers at the end of each histogram
  • Including a bold, red line for the most likely vote share
  • Including the red text on the first candidate, but then not repeating that for each subsequent candidate
Recommended Enhancements:
  • Include a more impactful title
  • Including a % sign on the axis

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