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Weather Eindhoven 2014, by Sonja Kuijpers

The challenges of visualizing big data for the first time

January 20, 2015

[This is a guest post by Sonja Kuijpers*, about her infoihgraphic project “Weather Eindhoven 2014″]

 

 

Motivation and interests

Being taught earlier at The Design Academy Eindhoven at the Public Space department and with a career in landscape and urban design, I have great affinity with research and analysis and visualizing these (as in this branch you have to know as much as possible about the location you’re going to design/develop and visualize the why and how you’re going to do so). I also have a love for maps which also derives from this background. So in many of my personal projects you would recognize these interests. The communality with infographics design is clear I hope: visualizing layers of info by appealing, aesthetic means.

Ever since I was little I’ve never quite understood the language of numbers and algebra and I have no background in data-science, statistics and/or programming. I do however study the basics of these fields so at least I can communicate about it, as well as to develop myself as a designer (I try to apply this and that to what I design; learning on the go).

With the autonomous projects I design I always search for info that has something to do with my own interests and/or surroundings which in many cases is the location: the city of Eindhoven, where I live (It’s one of the largest cities in the Netherlands and is a big knowledge / innovation / design hub in Europe. You should visit!).

Idea

Throughout the year I write down various ideas and/or sketch on projects I would like to design or what I would like to learn next. As for this particular project “Weather Eindhoven 2014” I tried to challenge myself to deal with more data then I’m used to working with. The (for me) challenging big data I chose was the weather: it’s open data, comprehensible and very accessible. The weather being also something of interest because of the climate-changes which are noticeable in the data and daily experience. We have had very dry, warm seasons with some big storms (for Dutch notions) and heat-records are set every year/month.

(image: Sonja Kuijpers | STUDIOTERP)

The data

As a source I used the data from Weather Underground, since they have thorough info and an easy to use interface. I fetched the comma delimited file which contained all weather info day by day of the whole year 2014 of Eindhoven. I then ran this file through Google Refine first and saved it in Google Spreadsheets. After that I went directly to Adobe Illustrator and did some experiments with the data in graphs.

As I earlier on stated, this project was purely a challenge for me to deal with data and I never had the intention to tell a story, I was mainly interested in the visualization itself.

Design

As usual as I start of with a project I have a pretty clear vision on how the colours will be. I always create a swatch-library up front and try to determine the fonts as well. At the end of the design-process I tweak these to optimize the ratio and the readability.

I started of with the windforce since that intrigued me the most and I first made some linear bar graphs just to see what the proportions /rhythm would be like. There’s no data on minimum windforce (since that is always 0) so I used average, maximum and wind gusts. I eliminated the data on wind gusts under the scale of 8 Belfourt since they weren’t that extreme and I was only interested in the speeds that counted as storm: 8 Belfourt and above.

Then I added more variables such as temperature and precipitation to see if I could combine these visually. Later on I also put thunderstorms in.

(image: Sonja Kuijpers | STUDIOTERP)
(image: Sonja Kuijpers | STUDIOTERP)

Radial

I’m very charmed by radial data-visualizations though and the goal I set was to create one. I drew some sketches on how to layout the data. I experienced through the linear layout which variables I wanted to combine (wind, rain) since they start at 0, adding thunderstorms to the max windforce. I decided to create temperature as an individual radial.

(image: Sonja Kuijpers | STUDIOTERP)

Since I have no mentionable skills in programming or such, the layout was very laborious. I rotated all days manually (so action rotate x 365) by 0.95 degrees so there would be a gap at the end of the circle which I would use for the legend.

(image: Sonja Kuijpers | STUDIOTERP)

Not quite satisfied with the result yet I decided to rotate the entire circle so the year would start at left hand rotating clockwise (naturally) instead of at the top. More importantly thus creating a better location for the legend so I would not have to do extra’s with it like rotating text or adding pointers. I feel this was an intelligible last decision.

(image: Sonja Kuijpers | STUDIOTERP)
(image: Sonja Kuijpers | STUDIOTERP)
(image: Sonja Kuijpers | STUDIOTERP)
(image: Sonja Kuijpers | STUDIOTERP)
(image: Sonja Kuijpers | STUDIOTERP)
(image: Sonja Kuijpers | STUDIOTERP)

 

 

*Sonja Kuijpers studied Public Space at the Design Academy Eindhoven and worked at a landscape / urban architecture firm. In 2013 she founded Studio Terp and as a freelancer focusses on the design of infographics. She’s adding more skills and broadening her horizon by following courses in diverse fields. She’s always approachable for new collaborations. You can reach or follow her on different social media. She’s very actively engaged on Pinterest to share her inspiration and interests. You can find her work at Behance and www.studioterp.nl, and connect on Twitter and Facebook.

Written by Tiago Veloso

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

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