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Data Viz News [68]

For those interested in all things data visualization and data journalism related, more than 30 links to enjoy.

September 13, 2014

The big news of the week comes from CartoDB, a company that has secured an $8 million Series A funding to keep expanding its activities. This almost overshadowed another one of the year’s great events, Tableau’s annual conference, that took place this week in Seattle. As usual, Alberto Cairo did an outstanding work, tweeting the insights from the keynotes of folks such as Hans Rolling, John Medina and Christian Chabot.

This edition of Data Viz News also includes a couple of new websites that we think you should add to your RSS reader, and our hand-picked selection of presentations, interviews, tutorials and articles, surrounding the fields of cartography, data visualization, data journalism and business analytics.

For more visual content, we always recommend you to pair this post with the latest visualizations (interactive, maps, vintage or from the print editions of the top newspapers and magazines), giving you the perfect portrait of what was the week in data visualization like.

Hope you enjoy the following recommend reads:


Latest product launches and business announcements, career moves, data visualization competitions and general news.

Web mapping and geospatial platform CartoDB has secured an $8 million Series A funding led by Berlin-based European VC Earlybird Venture Capital, with participation from existing investors Kibo Ventures and Vitamina K. The cash will be used to scale up the company which emerged out of Madrid, Spain, but it now HQ’d in New York.

Equally interesting for map making: Mapbox Studio, an open source map design platform, launched this week across all desktop platforms; OS X, Windows and Linux. Studio allows anyone to design radically custom maps, easily work with huge global datasets, publish updates in seconds, and design with resolution independence from retina devices to high resolution printing.

 Partial screen capture of the Mapbox Studio web site
(Mapbox Studio)


The data visualization projects running for the 2014 Innovation By Design Awards. All the finalists are listed here, and category winners will be announced at The 2014 Innovation By Design Awards and Conference, taking place on Wednesday, October 15, at the Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 West 18th Street, in New York City.

For what we can say from Tableau’s Conference, there’s a lot of changes coming out in Tableau 9. They also teased the audience by announcing an entirely new app for mobile, which looks very interesting, according to John C. Muñoz, who wrote this recap of the main keynote – you can watch it in full here.

In 2013 there was the first running of VISUALIZEDio, an independently organised event held in Berlin that is now coming to the UK. The event is being organised by our good friend Maral Pourkazemi and will take place on Saturday 22nd November, in London. Andy Kirk will join a panel with more than 15 speakers, including Peter Crnokrak, Stefanie Posavec and Marcin Ignac.

VISUALIZEDio in London, next November
VISUALIZEDio in London, next November


And speaking of Alberto Cairo, he has been talking/writing/tweeting a lot about the “Places & Spaces: Mapping Science“, a traveling exhibition of 100 maps that present data in visually stunning formats, and that is now available at the University of Miami. Fifty data visualizations are on display at the School of Architecture’s Stanley and Jewell Glasgow Hall, where UM students, faculty, staff, and visitors got the opportunity to examine some of the works at the Places & Spaces exhibition opening. The other 50 maps, along with Places & Spaces’ 3-D and interactive elements, are being showcased at the Richter Library, which has launched a parallel exhibition, “This Space, This Place”, featuring a collection of maps and diagrams by local talent. During the fall semester, world-renowned visualization designers and researchers will speak at UM about their work with big data and how it relates to Places & Spaces. All events are free and open to the public, but registration is required for many of them. For more information, visit the UM Visualization website.

Announcement of a new course by Kaiser Fung, to be held in New York, during the fall. The class is conducted in the style of creative-writing workshops. Each student will focus on one data visualization project during the term, and gain knowledge through drafting and revisions, offering and receiving critique, and above all, learning from others. Because of the workshop structure, enrollment is limited to 12 students. Enroll now to reserve your spot., with support from the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), would like to encourage investigative science journalism in the Global South and has established a Fellowship to enable a journalist to carry out a detailed investigation. This Fellowship will support a journalist who would otherwise not be able to carry out this work, and it will be judged by a panel of “highly credible and respected professionals” working in science journalism.

Perhaps not as well-known as his blog Well-formed Data, or the Data Stories podcast, Moritz Stefaner‘s portfolio website was revamped, and it’s definitely worth a visit – after all, it’s not often you see a data visualization portfolio with ten years of inspiring, mind-blowing projects.

A new blog that we have mentioned already here on Visualoop this week. Andy Cotgreave‘s Tumblr blog 100yrs of Data Visualisation best practice was launched to celebrate the centenary of Willard C Brinto‘s book, Graphic methods for presenting facts (1914). One hundred years after, many of the principles and insights are as contemporary as they can be, so congratulations to Andy for this great initiative. Follow the conversation on Twitter with #100yrsOfBrinton.

And another “just-launched-straight-to-my-RSS” website, this one more focused in medieval literature- which also includes those beautiful illustrations, charts and maps that are regular presence in our Monday round-ups of vintage information designs. Erik Kwakkel, a book historian at Leiden University, The Netherlands and the person behind Medieval Books, has been blogging since 2012, first on MedievalFragments, and then in 2013, with a Tumblr blog with shorter posts and splashy images. They are frequently featured in printed and online media, including Huffington Post, Colossal (and here again), Engadget, Paris Review and The Verge.

For more than a year, Jon Schwabish has been working on-and-off on a project called “The Graphic Continuum”. “It’s my view of the many different types of visualizations available to us when we encode and present data”, explains Jon in the blog post. “Working with Severino Ribecca, we set out to display this space in a clear and easy-to-read form. The idea was to display the space for reader to use as a resource or simply as art.” The Graphic Continuum is printed on heavy matte paper in a standard 24″x36″ format and is now on sale.

The Graphic Continuum, infographic by Jon Schwabish
(The Graphic Continuum, a project by Jon Schwabish with Severino Ribecca)



A selection of recent articles published by experts in different fields of data visualization:

As part of their ongoing efforts to promote information transparency and public awareness, Periscopic recently worked with the Global Terrorism Database to explore the reach, frequency and impact of terrorism around the world. A World of Terror is a graphical look at the 25 most impactful terrorist organizations since 1970, and was featured here on Visualoop. This post by Dino Citaro explains the challenges, goals and lessons learned from the development of this project.

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic A World of Terror
(image: Periscopic)


In this “sort of follow-up” to his latest post about favorite charts, Robert Kosara breaks down – or should we say “up”? – the reasons of why the vertical axis carries so much importance, either in technical or even anthropological terms.

The vertical direction should be chosen with care, because it communicates a lot about how to read a chart. And getting it wrong can cause considerable confusion.


This year, The Graphical Web went to Winchester University, UK, and in this article Mike Brondbjerg shares his highlights of “a thought provoking and stimulating 4 days”. These highlights include the keynotes given by Scott Murray, Jason Davies, Nikola Sander and Ramon Bauer.

The top 100 songs of all time were determined by Billboard in 1958, on the 55th anniversary of the creation of the sales chart. Now, after the success of his Famous Movie Quotes Poster, Nathan Yau decided to applied the same concept (small charts summarizing each entry) to Billboard’s list – and the result is great.

Partial screen capture of the Chart-Topping Songs poster, by Nathan Yau
Chart-Topping Songs, by Nathan Yau



Ranging from ancient charts to modern digital cartography and GIS technology, here you’ll find the best links of the week:

Kenneth Field talks about the first known map of the world inscribed on a clay tablet and depicting the known world from the perspective of Babylonia, dated sometime between 750 BC and 500 BC. “Someone had the idea to represent the world around them using marks on a physical object to create a map and as far as inventions goes this has to rank among the most important to humankind.” Agree!

Every June and December, social media strategist Vincenzo Cosenza updates his “world map of social networks” to show what the most popular service is in every country. The latest update, for July 2014, reveals that Facebook now dominates 130 of the 137 countries worldwide tracked by Alexa.



Archaeologists have unveiled the most detailed map ever produced of the earth beneath Stonehenge and its surrounds. They combined different instruments to scan the area to a depth of three metres, with unprecedented resolution. Story by Maria Dasi Espuig.

Working with data from “the broadest and most detailed study of its kind,” the set of visualizations Stamen Design made together with the Audubon Society, collectively comprise “the closest thing we have to a field guide to the future of North American birds.” This post shows how the team created these visualizations.

Silent Springs


Like a sommelier appreciates a fine wine, nose to glass, graphic designer Kate McLean appreciates a pungent street odor. So far, McLean has mapped smells in Amsterdam, Edinburgh, and Milan, and her Sensory Maps project has been featured by the likes of The New York Times.

Vox’s Matthew Yglesias continues to pull together lists of maps that explain something – this time, “Europe” is the focus, with 38 maps showing how the continent, as both a place and a concept, has changed dramatically in its centuries of history.

Closing this section dedicated to cartography, the “Global Data Chandelier” – a custom light fixture commissioned by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) for their new headquarters in Washington, DC. Sosolimited partnered with Hypersonic Engineering & Design, Plebian Design, and Chris Parlato to design, program, and fabricate this one-of-a-kind chandelier.



The most recent articles with tips, insights and best practices around data journalism and information design in newsrooms.

“Before they were doctors, lawyers, and prime ministers, bold women became journalists. The boldest rose to lead some of the largest media organizations in the world. That’s not to say it was easy; winning the right to cover something other than “women’s issues” took years of hard work, tough skin, and lawsuits”. Anna Griffin wrote this story, that digs into the genre inequality issue inside newsrooms.

The idea of this article by Alexis Ulrich is to give you a broad view of what data journalism is and how you can use its lens to get great content ideas. Alexis also shares links to additional resources and online galleries.

Journalist Wilson Liévano spent his 2013 JSK Fellowship year exploring ways to use data animation to tell stories, having created Animated Press, a news animation studio and has produced animations featured by The Guardian, Al-Jazeera and the Wall Street Journal. He is now a multimedia coordinator for Wall Street Journal Americas, and in this post he shares his top tips for producing data animations.

About 300 people in 30 countries are currently using Filtergraph, a free Web-based data visualization tool developed in a master’s thesis project by Vanderbilt graduate Dan Burger. Most of those users are academics, studying fields ranging from soil analysis to astrophysics. But now Burger and Rachel-Chloe Gibbs, a 2014 Vanderbilt alum, are looking to turn the tool from a free service owned by the university into a functioning business, one with potential for spinout through the Vanderbilt Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization. Eleanor Kennedy tells the story.



Recent articles related to the wide range of data visualization applications for business analytics, as well as content surrounding the “Big Data” buzz.

Two new reports on big data and big decisions were released this week by Accenture and PwC. For Gil Press, both reports shed new light on the impact of big data on enterprises today, and how it is changing the process of decision making by senior executives.

Some interesting numbers, in this article by Jerome Buvat, comparing the US and European Internet markets. Fort example, globally, US-based companies represent close to 67% of the total market capitalization of public Internet companies while European companies account for less than 4% . Britain, Germany and France combined have 15 Internet firms valued at over $1 billion while the US alone has 87. Overall, it’s safe to say that Europe is yet to produce its own champions on the scale of Google, Facebook and Twitter.

And while we’re on it, an article by David J. Kappos about the state of big data in the US, as vast quantities of information are evolving rapidly into an asset class in its own right, akin to software and hardware with their own ecosystems and competitive dynamics and innovation cycles.

Qlik, SAP, SAS, and Tableau Software deliver the latest table stakes in visual discovery: storyboard capabilities. Here’s how they stack up, in a evaluation by Cindi Howson.

Enterprise software giant has made its offerings into a sort of platform that other software companies can build on. And if Salesforce is indeed about to launch a business-analytics tool, the move could jeopardize a whole bunch of startups and even publicly traded companies that sit in the Salesforce ecosystem. Full story by Jordan Novet.

Short, but useful post by Bernard Marr. A client has recently ask Bernard to send him his top 10 big data quotes of all time and this is the list he came up with. We especially liked this one: “Errors using inadequate data are much less than those using no data at all.”, by Charles Babbage, inventor and mathematician.



Insights from well-known names in the data visualization field, published during last week.

Journalist’s Resource recently caught up with Sarah Cohen to ask about the knowledge she’s developed both in the classroom and in the field. Sarah is a leading practitioner and educator in the field of data journalism, and she now serves as both editor of computer-assisted reporting at the New York Times and board president of Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE).

Ideally, I’d like to see a young data journalist spend two or three years in a beat reporting and writing job, or at least having to produce three or four reported, edited pieces a week. Sometimes that background isn’t necessary, but it changes how you view any data-journalism job.



Ranging from tutorials and presentations, to lists of tools and practical guidelines for creating effective data visualizations.

A huge list of places to find data, organized into six major categories: Government Data, Data Search Sites, Social/Economic Data, Health/Science Data, Earth/Geography Data, and Miscellaneous Data. Although the article itself is focused on content marketing, these are sources that can be useful for many other purposes.

Today’s shout out for weekly links round ups goes to GPS Track Log, a blog created by Rich Owings initially to promote his book, ‘GPS Mapping – Make Your Own Maps’. The blog has taken a life of its own since 2005, and every week, Rich releases a list with recommended links.

With all the buzz around Tableau’s 2014 Conference, it’s only fair that we include a couple of posts from the Zen Masters. The first one goes to Ben Jones‘s post on how to make small multiple maps in Tableau – the result of the exercise is a a visualization of FEMA declared disasters, by county, since 1953.

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic Continental US FEMA disasters since 1953
(Continental US FEMA disasters since 1953, by Ben Jones)


The second post by a Tableau Zen Master in today’s round up comes from Andy “friends don’t let friends use pie charts” Kriebel. He shares a neat trick Paul Mathewson of Interworks uses to make cleaner charts.

New post in Jerome Yang‘s series about creating data visualizations with ArcGIS API for JavaScrip. This one covers the basics of working with Unique value rendering.

Ok, so not that much of a resource, but more like a very clever and fun idea, shared by Nathan Yau. This video is an overview of Malke Rosenfeld‘s approach to teaching math and percussive dance at the same time.


In this post, Tony Hirst describes one way in which we can start to make it easier to work with data sets from remote data sources such as the World Bank, the UN datastore and the UN Population division from an IPython Notebook data analysis environment.

A step-by-step guide on how to make bullet charts directly on Excel, without using any plugins. Stephanie Evergreen caught this tip on Excel Dashboards and Reports, a book by Michael Alexander and John Walkenbach.

Network Mapping with School of Data | Open Knowledge on YouTube

A session/tutorial hosted by Nisha Thompson (School of Data Fellow).



An updated view at the Events Calendar we have available here on Visual Loop.

Data Viz calendar


That’s it for another Data Viz News. Feel free to let us know if we missed some interesting resource, and don’t forget to join us on our Facebook Group or, where we share many of the links mentioned above.

Written by Tiago Veloso

Tiago Veloso is the founder and editor of Visualoop and Visualoop Brasil . He is Portuguese, currently based in Bonito, Brazil.

  • Corey Rose

    Love the idea of a smell map. Seems like we’re getting closer to recreating smells based on the “basic colors” of smell. One day it would be awesome to smell as well as see streetmaps. Great post.