The Art of Transforming Data into Great Stories

What happened last week in the world of data visualization? This series provides you with remarkable visualizations –remarkably beautiful, remarkably interactive or simply remarkably interesting. Visualizations differ on so many levels, and so does their content. Let’s take a look at what week #15 brought us.


DDJ goes VR

If you are actively checking Twitter for #dataviz, you probably stumbled upon a project by Google News Lab conducted by Simon Rogers. Rogers is head Data Editor of Google and as such responsible for the development of a graspable visualization that the user experiences in a virtual reality. On top of the chosen fashionable methodology, the Google data team also chose a trendy topic: Brexit.

The assumption that Brexit is not only a hot topic in Great Britain is supported by the numerous search inquiries that Google noticed in the last weeks before the referendum took place. Since geographical information seems to be ideal for VR experiences, Rogers and his team developed a VR map displaying the member states of the European Union and showing which questions were mostly asked in which country using Google. The result is a VR experience that provides you with tiny pieces of information, yet lets you ‘move’ around.

First things first, the VR-visualizations work very well since all functions do what they are supposed to do. Although it needs to be stated that the visualization looks very basic and that people might expect more from a VR dataviz. However, the devil is in the detail and we are certain that the development was harder than might be noticeable for the end user. The fact that it does work and that someone is going through the steps of bringing data visualization into the virtual world needs to be recognized. What is left to say? Let the learning curve begin and let us all participate in this process, so that we can experience more news-enriched data visualization shown in a virtual reality.

VR DDJ Brexit by Google Trends

Screenshot taken from a blog post published by Simon Rogers


Gotthard Base Tunnel

It’s hard to escape the magic of the Gotthard Base Tunnel once you start reading about the gigantic project that Switzerland successfully completed in June 2016. This did not escape the attention of the Swiss newspaper Tagesanzeiger, which developed a series of mostly data-driven stories about the Gotthard Base Tunnel.

The Tagesanzeiger successfully managed to publish five in-depth stories about the tunnel in a time period of two months. The stories are very sophisticated, meaning that the challenges and progress of the project which has been ongoing for 17 years are reported in detail. For this purpose, the newspaper developed and tried out different methods: scrollable infographics , bar charts, animated video in size of a smartphone display, even an interactive game and more.

It would go beyond the scope of this blog post to review all five stories equitably. But they all have in common that they are not just a digital version of a potential infographic for a print edition. On the contrary, one can tell that the authors identified different solutions for their main topic and tried to make it appealing and useful for the reader. Even though some stories might be told in a more interested way than others and the design could be more en vogue, they are of high quality – from a journalistic and end-user point of view.

Gotthard Base Tunnel

Commuting in Germany

Do you know visuals addressing traffic? We bet you do; you can find examples here and there. However, the German magazine Zeit Online surprised us by adding a new perspective to commuting. They published a story that contains many interactive visuals in order to show for real the important role that commuting has for millions and millions of Germans.

Zeit Online gives a very detailed outline of commuters in Germany by first displaying more descriptive data, such as the time Germans spend commuting and the means they are using (car, train, walking, etc). Then they dig deeper by distinguishing between inbound and outbound commuters. Although the results may not be surprising to someone who is familiar with German cities, the visuals are quite complex, yet easily comprehensible.

Over time, Zeit Online developed its own design language in terms of (interactive) visualizations like other big media outlets such as The Guardian, The New York Times, Bloomberg and Financial Times. They all have a certain degree of simplicity in common that helps the user find the required information without being too distracted. Therefore, a certain quality standard is expected. Zeit Online demonstrated that they can fulfill the expectations that their readers might have.
Commuting Germany - ZeitOnline


About the author : Eva Lopez (DW)