The Art of Transforming Data into Great Stories

What happened last week in the world of data visualization? This category provides you with remarkable visualizations – they can be remarkably beautiful, remarkably interactive or just remarkably interesting. Visualizations differ on so many levels, and so does their content. Let’s take a look at what week #11 brought us.


Age of buildings in Paris

A couple of weeks ago, we presented a map displaying the great diversity of trees in NYC on this site. Well, we found something similar sophisticated. The French scientist Etienne Côme created a heatmap that colors Paris’ buildings according to their construction age.

Côme’s aim was to visually help people who are interested in the development of the French capital. Indeed, his map shows that undeniably every decade has left its legacies in the city. Whereas the center and the north-western districts are dominated by buildings from the 19th century, in the exterior districts post-war buildings define the cityscape. In the map itself no information is provided concerning the source of the data and the creator. Côme put all this relevant information in an information window that appears when opening the website; there might be a more elegant and transparent solution for that. However, the map is full of surprises. The box at the bottom right does not only serve as a legend but allows the user to also filter the buildings according to their construction age. And that’s not all: the user can dive deeper into the capital of romance. By doing so he or she finds pins that provide information about the labeled buildings.

This map is a very good example for a sophisticated piece of work that does not only look fascinating but also bears interesting information that can be individually explored by the users, for instance, conclusions about politics and history.

Paris Map Age of Buildings


The Shape of the US Economy

There are many ways to display the economical strengths of regions and countries. Often, when such data is visualized as a map the authors make use of choropleth. Max Galka, contributor of Huffington Post, decided to publish on his website Metrocosm a cartogram – not a choropleth – showing the economical power of single states according to their GDP.

Under the headline “The Shape of the US Economy” Galka tells a story about economical strong and weak U.S. regions by sizing each county proportional to its share of the total U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). He also added a static map that gives a quick overview about the ten largest metro areas according to their GDP. Generally, using a cartogram is a very nice way to set context into proportion. Using an animation to show both, the ‘normal’ map and the cartogram, is a smooth way to illustrate the weaknesses and strengths of both types. For instance, the usual maps are easy recognizable and one might easily find their county of birth. In contrast, the view of the second map is unusual and makes it harder for the user to find orientation. Another trade-off is that the animation does not allow any exploration by the users. This is a pity since the users will not get to know exact numbers. On the other hand the impact of single counties on the overall economy is much easier to grasp.
To sum it up, cartograms have a lot of power that is demonstrated on Metrocosm. Please, can we see more of them?

cartogram US economy


Economic Growth Over the Coming Decade

Unsurprisingly, the last story is also visually told by referring to a map. Once again it focuses on the economy. This time the economic growth over the next decade on a country scale is the subject of the visualization.

As the name implies, on the U.S. website money is the focal point. Not only for the present story about economic growth but also for other stories an interesting version of a map is used. Selected countries are displayed in their original shape but abstracted according to their proportion of growth. By treating the single countries as a piece of puzzle, there is enough space left for labeling. Apropos, also the size of the font depends on the expected economic growth: if the expected economic growth is relatively small, the font decreases and vice versa. Like the above introduced cartogram, this reduced map provides information about relations that are visible at first glance by adjusting country and font size according to the values. Even though the map is static and, therefore, a lot of information is presented at once, the map is still easy to understand. Additionally, this way of visualizing a map might inspire people who are seeking for new and abstract ways of using maps.

how much: economic growth


About the author : Eva Lopez (DW)