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Data Viz News [57]

All the news, resources and articles that marked the week in visualization and journalism

May 31, 2014

The death of Massimo Vignelli, one of the greatest 20th century designers, undoubtedly marked this past week – which, we might add, wasn’t as prolific in news as the latest ones. At the age of 83, Mr. Vignelli leaves a legacy that puts him among the icons of post-war design, spanning from corporate identity of companies such as American Airlines, Ford, IBM, Xerox and Bloomberg, to the complete redesign of a St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Manhattan. In the data viz community, he’s best known for designing the iconic (and, at that time, controversial) version of the New York City subway map in the 1970s – a piece that earned a place in the Museum of Modern Art’s collection of postwar design, and was later recreated as and interactive map.

As for other relevant content that caught our attention, we have some very interesting interviews, including the one with our friend Chiqui Esteban, about the work he and the team from the Boston Globe’s graphics desk have been developing. When we last talked with Chiqui, he was on his way to Boston, so it’s great to see what has changed since that interview.

Another great one that was released this week is the “The Art and Science of Data-Driven Journalism“, by Alex Howard, a reference guide/trends report for data and computational journalism, based on dozens of interviews with industry leaders. And of course, there’s the OpenViz Conference videos, that were just made available online. This one alone guarantees several hours of exploring and learning.

When you look at it, it wasn’t such a quiet week, after all. And we seriously doubt there will be one, ever. Enjoy the recommended links:


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

One of the many obituaries published about design icon Massimo Vignelli, who died at the age of 83 after a long illness. By Douglas Martin.

NYC Subway map by Massimo Vignelli, in 1972 | Metropolitan Transportation Authority


A brand new report that is being quite well-praised in the journo community. “The Art and Science of Data-Driven Journalism”, by Alex Howard, provides a recent history and current best-practices in the space of data and computational journalism, based on dozens of interviews with industry leaders. In this article, Howard shares a list of the 14 findings, recommendations and predictions explored in detail in the full report, which can be downloaded here (pdf).

Visually announced the launch of “ Campaigns”, a platform upgrade that helps marketers achieve measurable goals through custom packages that delivers visual content, at the right frequency, through targeted channels. Once the client fills out a creative brief, a certified creative director from the Visually Marketplace prepares a custom content package – including a mix of infographics, videos, presentations, reports, or interactive web experiences – that best achieves their goals.

On May 25, 1989, the first Magellan GPS NAV 1000s were shipped to retailers. The 8.75 x 3.5 x 2.25-inch, 1.5-pound waterproof and floatable handheld looked like a large calculator with a rotating antenna arm attached. It featured a multi-line LCD display, ran for a few hours on six AA batteries, and sold for $3,000. Twenty five years latyer, this technology has become a part of our digital lives, and you can read all about thet (r)evolution it in this nice post by Stewart Wolpin.

According to Joe Kava, the man who oversees the design and operation of Google’s worldwide network of data centers, the web giant is now using artificial neural networks to analyze how these enormous computing centers behave, and then hone their operation accordingly. These neural networks are essentially computer algorithms that can recognize patterns and then make decisions based on those patterns, as explained in this post by Cade Metz.

The 2014 Humanitarian Data Visualization Challenge aims to inspire original and creative interpretation and analysis of data that relates to humanitarian needs and response. The winning entry will be featured in World Humanitarian Data and Trends 2014, OCHA’s annual publication, and take a US$2,000 grant to help them further refine and develop their infographic. Deadline for applications is June, 30.

Priori Data, an app store data and analytics provider, has secured $1 million in seed financing to build a kind of Bloomberg-style platform for mobile industry professionals and analysts. The cash was raised from unnamed sources but, says the company, includes the Berlin angel investor community, private individuals from New York private equity and hedge fund circles.



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

A great resource by Kaiser Fung, properly contextualized in a very detailed article. The Trifecta Checkup is a general framework for data visualization criticism, that allows him to classify all data visualization critiques into eight types. We’ve mentioned it occasionally in this space, when featuring Fung’s posts, but now he made available a “definitive guide” to his framework, making it easier to understand how it works and how to apply it when analyzing all sorts of data visualizations.

(image: Kaiser Fung)


Here’s Jon Schwabish‘s take on the “So What?” test, mentioned by Alberto Cairo at a certain point on the epic Data Stories episode about “Storytelling”. Jon makes the case for the difficulties of narrowing the validation of a specific data visualization to such a test, and quotes several examples from the journalistic community and outside of it to back his argument.

This post by Martin Grandjean aims to be a contribution to the study of historical data visualization, more precisely Charles Joseph Minard’s well-known graphic showing the path of Napoleon’s troops across the Russian Empire of Alexander. In addition to a faithful vectorized version of the original map, it offers a “geographical” and a “historical” map based on the model of Minard.

We’ve talked about the Big Bang Data exhibit, taking place in Barcelona until October, and in Madrid between February and May 2015. Among the highlights, there are some classic visualizations, such as John Snow’s cholera map, Charles Joseph Minard’s Napoleon’s Russian campaign chart, and Florence Nightingale coxcombs. Alberto Cairo was asked to explain how to read them, and their historical significance:


Visual News‘s Managing Editor Benjamin Starr highlights the “Life Calendar” project by Tim Urban. The concept, illustrated with some charts, is simple: breakdown your life-expectancy in weeks, to put it in perspective. And make the most out of the time you have.

Jer Thorp shares a visualization he created to get a better understanding of what a ‘typical’ Alvin dive might be. It shows more than 4,700 of the submersible Alvin‘s dives, over the last 5 decades, and you can read a detailed account of many of the dives represented in this graphic on Woods Hole’s Alvin history page.

(image: Alvin at 50, by Jer Thorp)



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

It’s not always that we see the work of one of our Brazilian friends being praised by the likes of Kenneth Fields. Eduardo Asta, who we had the pleasure to feature here and here, made this map explaining the different time zones, back in 20004, together with Vincenzo Scarpellini.

(image: Eduardo Asta, Vincenzo Scarpellini)

Written by Hans van der Maarel, this post generated quite an interesting discussion over at CartoTalk forum. If you work with cartography, a thread to follow.

Some incredible pieces of cartography, in this selection compiled by Damien Saunder. These maps represent his five all-time favorites, and includes some old examles that are new to us – we’ll definitively get back to this one, for an upcoming edition of Vintage InfoDesign.

Nathan Yau revisits a map published back in 2008 on Floatingsheep, comparing the number of bars against the number of grocery stores in the U.S, expanding the visual breakdown to other countries.

(image: Bars vs Grocery Stores in the US, by Flowing Data)



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

Another one of the great articles of the week. Simon Rogers makes the case for a better understanding, from news publishers, of the current importance of mobile-optimized applications, web sites and data stories.

It’s not enough just to visualize the data now; you have to think hard about how it will be seen too.


The weekly recap by Harvard’s Nieman Lab is one of the best resources to stay up to date with the latest in data and investigative journalism. In this edition, Mark Coddington highlights Michael Kinsley’s New York Times review of Glenn Greenwald’s new book, the Lab’s Joshua Benton on the gap between mobile and print attention and advertising, and Ryan Chittum of Columbia Journalism Review on historical trends in newspapers’ reliance on reader vs. advertising revenue.

Post by Harry Jaffe, on what differentiates (or not) five notorious ‘explanatory journalism’ sites one from another. It covers Vox, FiveThirtyEight, The Upshot, QuickTake and Know More.

Speaking of FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver published a long article on the “apparent errors and methodological questions in the data” pointed by the Financial Times’ Chris Giles to Thomas Piketty’s bestselling book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century”. Another good read about this topic comes from economist Howard Reed, in The Guardian.

James G. Robinson, the New York Times’ director of news analytics, explains its new “Package Mapper” tool, developed to take a closer look at how readers consume news. “Pulling up-to-date data directly from raw web logs, it’s a network diagram that shows editors exactly how readers are navigating through a package of related content.”

Closing this section another video from the International Journalism Festival official YouTube Channel, this one with the session held about the “TACOD Project – Promoting Open Data as a Tool to Prevent and Detect Corruption”.



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

Will the next evolution in big data remove human intuition from key business decisions and rely exclusively on data-driven analytics? Not according to Jeff Bertolucci, a technology journalist who wrote this piece.

Adrienne LaFrance writes about the current state of the “business of personal data”, after the release of this report on Big Data by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

The FTC has been pushing for Congress to do something about free wheeling data brokers for the better part of the last decade. All this data collection is happening without consumer consent, and some the profiling that seems innocuous is actually harmful.


Expertmaker’s CTO and founder Lars Hard‘s recent talk at Foo Cafe, “Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Big Data at the Absolute Cutting Edge” is now up on YouTube.



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

One of the most recent interviews by journalist and author Glenn Greenwald, this one given to BBC Radio 5.

A mentioned in the introduction, the Boston Globe’s head of infographics, Chiqui Esteban, gave a quick tour through some of the Globe’s recent works. Interview conducted by Jonathon Berlin.

In this interview, Accurat‘s co-founder and design director Giorgia Lupi talks about her workflows and the works she is especially proud of – and also shared her thoughts on how journalists should approach data visualizations.



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

Talks by Mike Bostock, Andy Kirk, Robert Simmon and many more, at one of this year’s prime data visualization events. The second OpenVis Conference took place on April 24th & 25th of 2014, in Boston.

Partial screen capture of the OpenVis Conference videos page
The OpenVis Conference videos are up!


To be good at doing your job, be it visualization, programming or journalism, you need to be able to refer to the works and ideas of other professionals. Here’s an overview of the books that mobile interaction designer Dominikus Baur often pulls out and his explanation why these books are so important to him

Ben Jones shared his thoughts on the opportunity of data visualization with a group of academic researchers and faculty members at the University of Washington, Bothell on May 28th, 2014.


The latest Excel tutorial posted by Jon Peltier teaches you how to use VBA to link the axis scale parameters to values and formulas in the worksheet, instead of doing manually or worse: letting Excel updates the scales the way it thinks they fit best.

Data blending is the ability to bring data from multiple data sources into one Tableau view, without the need for any special coding. Andy Cotgreave leaves 9 tips on how to do it, from one of Tableau’s sessions delivered recently at the Tableau Conference in Munich.

Huge list that we suspect will become more and more popular in the next few weeks/months, specially if it gets updated regularly. You’ll find a bit of everything here, from dolphin relationships to political campaign donations to death row prisoners.

A post by Stephanie Evergreen, following up the release of the Data Visualization Checklist, that we mentioned a couple of weeks ago. Here, Stephanie explain’s the importance and usefulness of a graph’s title, subtitle, and annotations.

Trending tools and languages for data visualization makers, as well as ideas to get more inspiration, compiled in this presentation by Mathieu Elie.



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

DataViz Events


And it’s time to close another Data Viz News. As always, feel free to let us know if we missed some interesting resource, and don’t forget to join us on our Facebook Group , 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.