In-class Visualization – America’s Wealthiest

Team Members: David, Raymon, Fred, Morgan, Priya

The Story:

We are the job creators!
We are the job creators

We wanted to create the visualization from the perspective of the highest income group in America; different from what was shown in the video at the beginning of class. The main purpose of this infographic is to show the general audience how the America’s wealthiest are actually contributing to its profit and growth. They are not just the highest earners but also the highest tax payers.

Visualizing Email


In the context of Assignment 4, this visualization looked pretty interesting.

There has been an attempt to analyze emails, in a way that reflects something beyond numbers – to me, both visualizations had a strong storyline, in terms of charting the personal relationships involved.

The creator does not seem completely convinced with the video version themselves, but I still felt the impact of people walking to and away from the frame told a powerful story of relationships.

Similarly, in the other visualization, the shift from personal to work to school contacts is pretty clear, and thus reflects the changes in their personal lives.

Personally I found both of these strong in terms of an emotional connect, and a storytelling style (though the creator believes there are better, more emotive ways to create similar narratives).

Uninformative Graphic

Screen Shot 2013-03-13 at 12.24.25 PM
Wednesday morning’s Twitter feed brought this infographic and blog post to my attention by New Relic, titled “Improving Tradition with Technology: Obama for America Tech Team Infographic“. At first, I thought this would be an infographic showing how Obama’s “…small team capitalized on web and mobile technologies to capture massive donations, volunteers and votes.”

When I looked at the graphic by New Relic, I came away feeling confused rather than enlightened. Looking back on some of Cairo’s arguments, an infographic “…presents information, and it allows users to explore that information.” (Cairo, p. 73). The storytelling structure is author-driven, and explanatory. It presents the problem, the goal, the stakes and details to how that solution was implemented and achieved. However, New Relic shows the user all these things but doesn’t explain anything beyond the tools used. What I wanted to see was the how of things. How did the small team of 50 people use big data, SaaS tools, Agile? How did it utilize the cloud? Simply for storage or something more complex? How was all this used to capture donations, volunteers and votes?

The infographic is shallow because it lacks any deeper take-aways that drive at exactly how Obama benefited from this technology. It does nothing to clarify technology’s role in the Obama campaign. I am not even sure what exactly the tech team did. It doesn’t “…clarify [messages], highlight trends, uncover patterns, and reveal realities not visible before.” (Cairo, p. 79). “The Right Tools for the Right Job” has copy that says simply “Focus on what matters and outsource everything else” followed by a list of software. Were those the things that mattered or were those things what counted as outsourced? What was it that mattered?

Last of all the images, while cute, are redundant and do not reveal any quantitative data or insight. I believe it’s called “chartjunk” by Tufte. They are also inconsistent in representation. While Akamai is shown as being a distributing network, GitHub version control is simply the Octocat logo. What does a checkmark say about Optimizely? What exactly is A/B testing? Amazon’s icon is the most obviously tautological:  it’s name and logo for web services slapped on a computer screen icon above a line that says “static site hosted on Amazon”. Great!

Perhaps, however, I am not the right audience for the infographic. I actually rather dislike it, if you couldn’t tell by now. Its process is rather simple for those who are technologically savvy, since I imagine such a group would already be aware of using these tools, and what and how they are used. I would expect a graphic targeting technologically minded people to show how these existing tools were used in an innovative and unlikely ways in the Obama campaign. I expect it to answer how technology improved tradition.

This might be the kind of thing geared towards people who are in politics and not very technologically minded. After all, not everybody gets to take classes at the I School. But then, there is not any explanation for what exactly GitHub is, or what a cloud does, how Agile/Iterative deployments are good choices for technology developments, or what Akamai CDN enables. The only thing I am able to conclude is that this infographic is more of a marketing tool for New Relic showing how they were part of the Obama campaign to some degree. Who is the audience? I am not still not sure but maybe you have a better idea…

Invisible Technology

The following data visual deviates from what we have been exposed to thus far  as it involves data visualization in the context of video enhancements. Notwithstanding, I found the “Invisible Technology” work being conducted at MIT in the below video link  to be fascinating and relevant in that the data visual technology facilitates one’s ability to synthesize info. I think physicians will find great use with this data enhancement tool and what’s cooler is that even folks who suck at science, such as me, can discern what’s going on. Check it out! It’s approx. 3  minutes.



Sugar Consumption Infographic


A friend that works for the America Heart Association told me about a problem of explaining how much sugar is in different items because their current unit of sugar is sugar cubes which kids don’t really know of any more.

I came across this and think it is a nice alternative to sugar cubes in giving a sense of sugar consumption by the average American. I really like their use of color, font, and bases of comparison. There is only one main color, red. Everything else is black, white, or shades of gray. This choice of color, and the font as well, actually reminds you of Cocoa Cola, which is a big producer of sugary products. How they use the color is also nice. They alternate as the viewer goes down through the graph so each section is well marked without tiring the viewer with the same background and foreground colors.

They use items that are common today to demonstrate scale such as wheelbarrows and dumpsters. This is great because 130 lbs of sugar is kind of hard to imagine, but a dumpster full of sugar is possible to visualize. Another way to give a sense of scale is explaining what else could be consumed for the same sugar or calorie amount. The 10 strips of bacon instead of 500 calories of sugar is especially funny 🙂

US Gun Killings in 2010



This is one of the most unique visualizations that I have ever come across and quite effectively communicates the information about gun killings in the US in 2010. The data about these killings comes from the FBI.

The intent of this visualization is to show the number of deaths caused by gun shootings in every month of the year 2010.  The larger the diameter of the curve, the higher the age of the person when they were shot.  This is not a static visualization wherein you can see the number of deaths per month in the year 2010. There are several features in this visualization with different user intents:

1. As the visualization loads, the cumulative sum of  the number of deaths keeps on increasing as the months go by.

2. Also, it is interesting to see that initially when the first couple of curves are being plotted, a symbolic bullet/gun pellet drops to the X- axis when the person reaches the age when he/she is killed.

3. Clicking on the “age” box in the bottom left corner gives you a static graph in a different format (User Intent: Encode or show a different representation)

4.  If you hover over any of the areas in the visualizations (of both kinds), it describes when, how and at what age that person was shot. (User Intent: Abstract/Elaborate)

5.  However, the most interesting part of this visualization for me is the sum of the number of stolen years from all these people killed. they assume a different life expectancy of every individual (obtained from some data).

Technologies used: Examining the source, they seemed to have used AJAX and Javascript for rendering the visualization.

Lace Charts: Knitting Visualizations

When we think of data, we normally think of values: numbers, percentages, averages, and the like. But as we saw with assignment one, we interact with a lot of different types of information on a daily basis. For knitters like myself, patterns are excellent examples of this: while some designs are very simple, requiring only knowledge of only one or two stitches, others require a lot of knowledge, and the information contained in the pattern can be quite complex and difficult to follow.

Lace is considered to be amongst the most complicated type of knitting, consisting of intricate patterns of “holes” in the fabric. For these and many other patterns, it’s common to find charts: a grid of squares, where different symbols represent different types of stitches. Each row in the chart is a row of knitting, and the chart is followed from bottom to top. With some education on how to use them, these visualizations can provide two major benefits.

1. What the fabric looks like: the symbols used generally represent the actual stitch shape fairly well. In this example, the wavy pattern of the yarn overs (the big circles) are visible, which appear in the lattice texture of the fabric. Additionally, the knitter can see that this lace pattern increases by two for each row, since dark squares do not have stitches, but they are filled in as the pattern is knit.

2. At-a-glance: knitters can follow the pattern at a glance, using the more pre-attentive pictographs instead of reading specific stitch words. Instead of reading “k1, yo, k1, k2tog, yo, k1, yo, ssk, k1, yo, k1,” the knitter can see the 11 stitches of the bottom row with one glance. Repeats (the stitches within the darker black box) are easy to distinguish from the end stitches that are knit only once. The legend at the bottom helps with remembering what each symbol represents. This at-a-glance interaction can be a boon to a knitter managing tools and yarn at the same time, potentially reducing the amount of mental overload involved.

Infographic: Hot Summer Down Under


During the last lecture, we saw an example from the Australia Bureau of Meteorology which shows the extreme temperature in Australia this summer. The visualization above, found on a Tumblr blog of a sustainable cities website (, is an extension of that idea. It shows information such as temperature, flood, rainfall, and heatwave records in various places in Australia, which altogether explains the “angry summer” that the country is experiencing.

The key information is fairly straightforward. The temperature/flood/rainfall records are quantitative measures that are comprised of the new record (all broken in 2012/2013) and the previous high record. However, I did find the use of icons slightly inconsistent. The flood and rainfall icons are both comparative–they’re each made of a smaller icon and a bigger icon to represent the previous and current record, respectively. The temperature icon, however, is illustrated as only one part (thermometer) with the previous and current record information displayed on the side. I’m not sure why the designer used a different icon logic for temperature, especially since the information displayed is of the same structure.

My biggest annoyance is with the heatwave records, which are spattered all across the map with no discernible logic in their placements and seemingly random typographic hierarchy in terms of size, color, and typeface. Instead of the current placements, these icons could be placed at the bottom together (as 1-dimensional stats) to give the main visualization a little more breathing room.

Overall, the visualization can benefit from some content restructuring. At the moment, the graphic looks crowded and every item is styled in a manner that demands the viewer’s attention (big and bold types, bright colors, icons, etc). While the information conveyed is quite straightforward, creating a little more hierarchy in the visualization–through higher contrast between items and generous use of white space, for instance–will greatly help its narrative flow and convey the idea better.

–Raymon Sutedjo-The, 3/4/2013


Infographic: What employers want and what candidates need to get

I found this infographic through a news link LinkedIn sent me. It’s full of information and reasonably effective at presenting it. At no point in viewing this infograph did I completely misinterpret something. However, there were also a few things I felt it could have done better.

  • Job preparedness indicator: This uses red to yellow to show qualities managers want but don’t see in job seekers ordered by a combination of importance and least seen. The use of a dial makes sense based on the combined importance and least seen value, but the dial also seems to imply the qualities are on a continuous spectrum where one builds on top of another. If a job seeker were to try and use this graphic to determine what they need to work on their weaknesses would most likely be speckled throughout the indicator, not a single continuous section from one extreme to some point. Also the arrow on the indicator is superfluous. Removing it might help lessen the idea that the qualities build on each other.
  • What employers value vs how job seekers describe themselves: The red in this section of the infograph really pops out. However just looking at the numbers confuses why they are all given equal weight of importance, some are small and some are big with different extremes. It is also repeated information since the line graph with it’s value labels provide you the same information. If these values had to be there, I think it would have been better to emphasize them less with a more subdued color so they don’t pop more than the orange and green or just make them black. Also are these numbers percentages? If they are labeling the y-axis values with a “%” would be nice.
  • Skills can be learned: They used four distinct colors to indicate where a hiring manager believes you can learn a skill. This is fine, not too many colors. However they decided to use pie charts to show percentages for each skill. In class the only time pie charts seemed reasonable are when one portion is close to 50%. Here only the first pie chart has an item close to 50%. Without the numbers it would be difficult to really know the proportions. If the goal is to show the top 2 locations to learn a skill I think that the choice of pie charts is not too bad though. This is more because of the data than the medium though because there is a large difference in the values between the top two and lower two for this particular data set (except for the accountability skill). Also I wish that they had been consistent in where they started their pie chart (ex. start each green section at 12:00 and work their way around in the same color order). So I could more easily compare the pie charts with each other.
  • Job seekers confident in their abilities…: My previous comment on where to start coloring the pie chart holds for the pie charts in this section as well. My biggest problem with this section though has to do with the percentages. Using the same color for the number and some of the people icons would cause the brain to link them together. However they are actually opposites. The black people icons represent the percentage and the colored icons are what is left. Swapping the colors might not necessarily make it more aesthetically pleasing, but it at least wouldn’t confuse viewers into thinking the colored people icons represent the percentage value.

Once again over all a pretty good graphic. It uses a lot of color but each choice seems reasonable and it causes the eye to want to look at the entire graphic, which is part of the goal for something like this. The infographic also uses backgrounds to break things up  and better tell it’s story.

Adding to the subject of color blindness…

The first portion of the article talks about why some primates evolve to see different colors (3 dimensions of color).


One theory is that that primates evolve to distinguish fruit colors on trees. However, this article suggests that primates evolve to see different colors to sense emotions. For this reason, primates that can see 3 dimensional colors have no fur on their faces, etc. Blood color changes depending on the amount of oxygen present and so the color vision is sensitive to that color.

The second half of the article is about how the theory is used to come up with glasses for color blind people.