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Opinions expressed on this blog reflect the writer’s views and not the position of the Capgemini Group

Data Visualisation - a selection of my favourites July 2014

Category : Data Visualisation
In this month’s selection of my data visualisation favourites I’ve chosen:
  • Two articles which stand out to me because of the elegant simplicity with which they portray a large amount of information;
  • Two articles because they challenge my thinking about which charts to use and why; and
  • One because I’ve found the information presented useful and have shared it several times with colleagues.

Elegantly simple: the English language

“Some data visualisations tell you something you never knew, others tell you things you knew, but didn’t know that you knew”. This is the introduction to a set of charts showing how all the letters in the alphabet are distributed across all the words they are found in.

Elegantly simple: high school science

This is a six minute video covering aspects of the subjects I taught back when teaching chemistry, biology & physics was my day job. The voiceover is the key to the simplicity, but the constant visual flow accompanying the information is what will help the watcher learn from what’s there. Six minutes stretching from atomic tiny-ness to universe sized hugeness.

Alternative charts: don’t use pies?

There’s a fairly large contingent within the data visualisation community who would advise that a good visualisation never includes a pie chart. I’m not sure about the truth of that. For me, if the title, legend and everything else on the chart is well considered, then it’s possible for a pie chart to convey a simple message in a way that other chart types can’t attain. However, this article, by Cole Nussbammer, considers alternatives to using two pie charts to compare information and I’d agree with her that at least three of the four alternates are better than the pies. My favourite is alternative #3. What’s yours?

Alternative charts: bar charts upside down

There’s a quite famous chart, created first in 2011 from data collected by the Iraq Body Count,, which turns the chart upside down so that the bars point downwards. This has the effect of making the bars look like dripping blood, which adds to the strength of the message given. Obviously it isn’t the only time when bar charts have been used in this way – of course when charts show negative numbers they may even naturally take an upside down format. This article shows some examples which work and some which don’t. For me, it’s interesting to consider how even the parts of a chart we take for granted can be challenged and edited to add to the value of the message we’re trying to present.

And finally: a nice infographic

I’ve been travelling more than usual over the past six weeks and this infographic showing which airlines offer wifi (and the prices) has been a minor factor in the decisions I’ve made about which to use. I especially like how the artist has used colour to group airlines by wifi prices rather than positioning their logos in different sized groups. 

About the author

Cathy Buchanan
Cathy Buchanan
Working in Operational Research for over ten years, as a consultant my goal is to help clients understand the value that data brings to their organisations. Before consultancy, I spent 5 years working in call centre design and am now very interested in promoting “the contact centre of the future”, utilising & combining multiple customer channels efficiently. My areas of specialisation are Optimisation, Simulation and Data Visualisation.

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