Information Design Watch

September 30, 2009, 9:10 am

TDR Launches New Interface Design

By Henry Woodbury

Today TDR updated their site with a new banner, color palette, and home page layout.

The design and roll out resulted from close partnership between TDR, Dynamic Diagrams, and other consultants. The result is a fresh look and a home page layout that reflects the evolving use of the site.

Co-sponsored by UNICEF, UNDP, the World Bank, and WHO, TDR, “funds research in infectious diseases of poverty, and provides support and training to researchers and institutions in the countries where these diseases occur.”

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon

Comments (0) | Filed under: Dynamic Diagrams News, Scholarly Publishing, Web Interface Design

September 25, 2009, 3:32 pm

Data in the Round

By Henry Woodbury

An interesting, but flawed chart at O&G Next Generation shows how much oil the United States imports from other countries:

Oil Imports to the United States

There are several big problems with this chart. First, U.S. oil imports per day by country is linear data. When one-dimensional values are presented as two-dimensional areas, proportional differences between values are rarely perceived correctly. This problem is compounded by the placement of the data blobs on the global map. It is good to attach each blob to a country, but not good to scatter them both vertically and horizontally. With a little design attention the values could be presented as bars and aligned along a single x-axis in the tropics.

Another problem is that several important data points aren’t shown. Most importantly we need a figure for the United State’s domestic production. This is vital for context. Upon investigation, we find that the bar chart on the bottom left is either not accurate or not tracking the same petroleum product as the map. If you subtract Total Imports from U.S. Consumption for 2008 you get a ballpark figure of around 6,000 thousand barrels per day. This is far off the mark. The real number for 2008 is 4,921 thousand barrels per day, a little bit less than total U.S. crude produced since a small amount of U.S. crude is exported. In June 2009, domestically produced minus exported crude is 5,126 thousand barrels per day.

Another missing figure is the total of oil imports from all countries after the top 10. Once we can look up the June 2009 total for all countries — 9,172 thousand barrels per day — we can easily calculate the sum of all countries after the top 10. The long tail total turns out to be 1,613 thousand barrels per day which is greater than all but Canada. The 9,172 total and various subtotals also allow us to validate the 82% percentage on the far right and update the 2007 ratio of 60% to the actual June 2009 ratio of 64%.

If we add circles to show the oil consumed by the United States from its own production and the “Rest of World” total identified above, the chart looks something like this:

Oil Imports to the United States Compared to Domestic Production

It is even more difficult to read. But that’s not a problem with the data. The data needs to be shown. The problem is with the presentation. The chart still shows linear values with areas, it still doesn’t show totals, it still uses an out-of-date figure from 2007 on the far right, it still has questionable, out-of-date data on the bottom left, and it still has a jumble of factoids on the bottom right that don’t relate the data above. Alas, I am out of time.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon

Comments (0) | Filed under: Charts and Graphs, Infographics, Information Design, Maps, Visual Explanation

September 16, 2009, 11:05 am

Mobile Accessibility

By Matt DeMeis

Not being an iPhone owner, I can’t personally comment on the ease of use of the device. Regardless, I was impressed by this video on the accessibility features of the 3GS. It’s hard for anyone with their eyesight to grasp just how well this would work for someone who is visually impaired, but to me it seems like Apple did great job.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon

Comments (0) | Filed under: Technology, Usability

September 15, 2009, 12:20 pm

Lego Little People Calendar

By Lisa Agustin

lego2_0

Little people part 2: Lego is issuing its first calendar in the UK this week, as a charity effort benefiting the National Autistic Society.   Each month features the famed –and often quite terrified–’minifigs’ participating in seasonal activities.  By the way, if you ever wondered how these minifigs come into being, check out this video of the production line.

(Thanks CR Blog)

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon

Comments (0) | Filed under: Design, Marketing, Photography

September 8, 2009, 1:02 pm

The Max Baucus Health Care Lobbyist Complex

By Lisa Agustin

The current health care reform debate has presented plenty of opportunities for visual thinkers (and aspiring ones) to clarify the issues and explain possible solutions.  My current favorites have been Dan Roam’s “back of the napkin” series on fixing health care and the flow chart prepared by the office of Congressman John Boehner (R-OH) showing the Democrats’ health care proposal. (Should we assume that the awfulness is on purpose?).

But subtler visualizations grab my attention more for what they imply.  Consider “The Max Baucus Health Care Lobbyist Complex,” which was developed by the Sunlight Foundation, a group whose goal is to “use the power of the Internet to shine a light on the interplay of money, lobbying, influence and government in Washington in ways never before possible.”  The Max Baucus visualization is named for Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), who heads the Senate Finance Committee, which has been singled out by advocates and news organizations as the toughest obstacle for the President’s health care priorities.  The visualization shows the connections from Baucus to five of his staffers-turned-lobbyists to their health care sector clients, which, in some cases, overlap.  Most of the organizations are directly involved in the health care or insurance industries.

baucus-viz-large1

According to the Foundation:

In his many years on the committee, Baucus has amassed a wealth of connections to the health care and insurance industries, often through his ties to former staffers turned lobbyists.  These connections expose how close the many organizations seeking influence on health care reform are to one of the most powerful players in Washington.

Data for the visualization was provided by OpenSecrets.org.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon

Comments (0) | Filed under: Charts and Graphs, Current Events, Maps, Visual Explanation

September 4, 2009, 1:12 pm

The Times Goes Google on Us

By Henry Woodbury

I just discovered the New York Times Developer Network.

This resource provides data from The Times to third party developers through content-related APIs:

Our APIs (application programming interfaces) allow you to programmatically access New York Times data for use in your own applications. Our goal is to facilitate a wide range of uses, from custom link lists to complex visualizations. Why just read the news when you can hack it?

Most or all of the APIs respond to a query by returning data in XML or JSON format. Some developers have built custom search engines and topic-specific mashups around this functionality. Others are more interested in the sheer excess of the data — and how it can be visualized.

Artist Jer Thorp is one of the latter. Thorp accesses the Times Article Search API to create visualizations that compare the frequency of key words over time. The image below, for example, compares ’sex’ and ’scandal’ from 1981 – 2008:

NYTimes: Sex & Scandal since 1981

When you zoom in, the visualization reveals branching segments called “org facets”. Thorp writes:

[These are] organizations which were associated with the stories that were found in the keyword search. This is one of the nicest things about the NYTimes API – you can ask for and process all kinds of interesting information past the standard “how many articles?” queries.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon

Comments (0) | Filed under: Charts and Graphs, Current Events, Information Design, Technology, Visual Explanation, Web Interface Design

September 2, 2009, 2:20 pm

What’s Wrong with this Chart?

By Henry Woodbury

Federal Spending FY 2009 YTD

The chart, of Federal Spending FY 2009 YTD, is from USAspending.gov, a web site mandated by law to provide the public free, searchable information about U.S. Federal expenditures.

Seth Grimes at Intelligent Enterprise figures out the problem and its cause:

USAspending.gov produces its charts dynamically using the Google Chart API…[but] passes values to Google that are out of range. Google truncates them, just as [its] documentation explains.

Here is Grimes’ corrected chart:

Federal Spending FY 2009 YTD, corrected

Unfortunately, data misrepresentation isn’t the only problem he finds.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon

Comments (1) | Filed under: Charts and Graphs, Technology, Usability, Web Interface Design