Author Archive: Michael

DataViz as Maps: Where the Germanwings Plane Crashed (New York Times)

Where the Germanwings Plane Crashed

The plane went down in a remote part of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department, and search teams struggled to get to the area. When French air traffic controllers lost contact with the aircraft, it was flying at approximately 6,000 feet; the elevations in the search area range between 2,000 and 9,000 feet.



No helicopters have been able to land because of the rugged terrain around the crash site. Searchers had to be lowered, further slowing recovery efforts. The size of the debris area, which was about the size of three to four football fields, suggests the plane hit the ground at a very high speed, according to the French interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve.


Source: New York Times, Where the Germanwings Plane Crashed, March 25, 2015,

Infographic: Sugar Consumption in America


Sugar Consumption

DataViz: The Meaning of the Three-Letter Airport Abbreviations

Airport Codes

It’s one of those things that you’ve perhaps never explicitly thought about, but it may have tickled the back of your mind a few times as you make airplane reservations or stare at a departure screen. Where do the three letter codes used to delineate between airports actually come from? What’s the deal with the “X” in LAX? Why EWR for Newark?

Thanks to a new site from simple and effective new site from designers Lynn Fisher and Nick Crohn we can finally know where these little acronyms are derived from.

Called International Air Transport Association (IATA) codes, the clean, visually appealing site lets you click on a number of different codes (laid over an image of the airport’s location), which delivers provides a simple, concise explanation of its origin.

The mysterious X is finally understood: it’s simply the letter that’s plugged in if the necessary letter is already taken by another airport. The site also points out that up until the 1930s, airports only used two letter codes. That’s how you get LAX for Los Angeles International Airport, which was previously just LA. The strange Newark code EWR is also revealed. After switching the three letter codes, the Navy reserved all codes beginning with N. Thus, Newark was forced to begin with their second letter.

Many more fun tidbits like these can be found in this very informational little site. Have fun.


Source: Co.DESIGN, What The Hell Do Those Three-Letter Airport Abbreviations Mean?, Fast Company, March 19, 2015,

Tapestry Conference 2015: YouTube Videos of Keynotes


Tapestry 2015 Keynote – Hannah Fairfield: “Reveal”  

[Click on image below to watch video]

Hannah Fairfield

Tapestry 2015 Keynote – Kim Rees: “The Data Documentary”

[Click on image below to watch video]

Kim Rees

Tapestry 2015 Keynote – Michael Austin: “Useful Fictions”  

[Click on image below to watch video]

Michael Austin

DataViz: U.S. Bachelor’s Degrees by Gender and Ethnic Diversity


[Click on image for interactive version and author information]U.S. Bachelors Degrees

Tapestry Conference 2015: Interesting Visualizations From Presentations (and more Odds and Ends) – Part 1


More great information from the Tapestry Conference.



The Graduate Athens – From Hotel Directory

IMG_2689 IMG_2690

Chad Skelton – Income Calculator (White Male vs Black Women) – Inequality in Earning Income for the Same Job

Tapestry Income Calculator


Tapestry Income Calculator White Male


Tapestry Income Calculator Black Female

More Catherine Madden (#catmule) Sketches

B_TSRFjW8AATDpy.jpg large

RJ Andrews, Info We Trust, Creative Routines

creative routines - close up

“We all have the same 24 hours that Beyoncé has” and its various iterations took the web by storm in late 2013 as the megastar became the figurehead of not only having it all, but being able to somehow do it all too.

How do creatives – composers, painters, writers, scientists, philosophers – find the time to produce their opus? Mason Currey investigated the rigid Daily Rituals that hundreds of creatives practiced in order to carve out time, every day, to work their craft. Some kept to the same disciplined regimen for decades while others locked in patterns only while working on specific works.



Kim Rees,, How Nations Fare in PhDs by Sex [Click Image to Watch Interactive Visualization]

How Nations Fare in Ph.Ds by Sex

Tapestry Conference 2015: Odds and Ends


Had a great conference and want to share various odds and ends from the last two days.

Hope to post more in a day or two.



The Graduate Athens – Funky, Eclectic.

IMG_2656 IMG_2657 IMG_2658 IMG_2688

Breakfast – Shrimp and Grits


The Athens, GA Double Barrelled Cannon. Failed miserably. Ellie Fields: Trying and failing is O.K.

cannon1 IMG_2668

 Catherine Madden (#catmule) Sketches


World History in One Picture, Popular Science, July 1930


Seven Data Story Types – Ben Jones

IMG_2672 IMG_2673

Me at the Demo and Poster Session


Kim Rees,, Gun Deaths in 2013 [Click Image to Watch Interactive Visualization]

Gun Deaths 2013

Sound Bites

Let us go forth and build double barreled cannons and deed trees to themselves. -Ellie Field

Revelation is based on prior knowledge. -Hannah Fairfield

Show what you know as well as what you don’t know. -Hannah Fairfield

All storytelling is manipulation. -Ken Burns

Do good with data. -Kim Rees

Data only has so much elasticity before it breaks down. -Kim Rees


How Color Can Trick The Eye: 12 Fascinating Optical Illusions

Source: Ann Swanson, 12 fascinating optical illusions show how color can trick the eye, The Washington Post, February 27, 2015,

It sounds inane, but the dress question was actually tricky: Some declared themselves firmly in the blue and black camp, only to have the dress appear white and gold when they looked back a few hours later.Wired had the best explanation of the science behind the dress’ shifting colors. When your brain tries to figure out what color something is, it essentially subtracts the lighting and background colors around it, or as the neuroscientist interviewed by Wired says, tries to “discount the chromatic bias of the daylight axis.” This is why you can identify an apple as red whether you see it at noon or at dusk.The dress is on some kind of perceptual boundary, with a pretty even mix of blue, red and green. So for those who see it as white, your eyes may be subtracting the wrong background and lighting.Changing a color’s appearance by changing the background or lighting is one of the most common techniques in optical illusions. As the examples below show, colors can change dramatically against different backgrounds. (If you’ve ever held a sock up to something black to see whether it was black or navy, you understand the concept.)

For example, in this classic shadow illusion by Edward H. Adelson, A and B are the exact same shade of grey:

Here’s a minimalist illustration by Wikipedia user Dodek. The grey bar across the center is actually one constant color:

In this image from BrainDen, the surface colors of A and B are the same. To test it out, just use your finger to cover the middle of the drawing, where the two squares meet.

In this illusion by Barton L. Anderson and Jonathan Winawer, the black and white chess pieces are the same color:

If you want a dog of a different color, just set it against a different background (via BrainDen):

There are actually only two colors in this image — red and green (sorry, color blind people). Also via BrainDen.

The blue and yellow border around this image by Jochen Burghardt creates the illusion that it is pale yellow, instead of white:

Contrasting colors can even give you the illusion of motion, as in this trippy graphic by Paul Nasca:

The same principle is at work here, in Akiyoshi Kitaoka’s “autumn color swap.” If you move the page up and down, the inset square will appear to move.

If you stare at the center of this illusion by Jeremy Hinton, you will eventually see a revolving green circle. When the lilac disappears, the adaptation of rods and cones in the retina leaves a green afterimage.

Or, as in Pinna’s illusory intertwining effect, colors can give the illusion that circles are intertwining (they are actually concentric).

But probably the best illusion on the subject of the dress is by Randall Munroe of Xkcd, who immortalized the debate in an optical illusion cartoon form.

Chart: Stories of the Past and Future (xkcd)


2015 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms – Tableau Wins Again

2015 Gartner Magic Quadrant BI & Analytics


Click on Image to Read the Report

Tableau’s intuitive, visual-based data discovery capabilities have transformed business users’ expectations about what they can discover in data and share without extensive skills or training with a BI platform. Tableau’s revenue growth during the past few years has very rapidly passed through the $100 million, $200 million and $300 million revenue thresholds at an extraordinary rate compared with other software and technology companies.

Tableau has a strong position on the Ability to Execute axis of the Leaders quadrant, because of the company’s successful “land and expand” strategy that has driven much of its growth momentum. Many of Gartner’s BI and analytics clients are seeing Tableau usage expand in their organizations and have had to adapt their strategy. They have had to adjust to incorporate the requirements that new users/usage of Tableau bring into the existing deployment and information governance models and information infrastructures. Despite its exceptional growth, which can cause growing pains, Tableau has continued to deliver stellar customer experience and business value. We expect that Tableau will continue to rapidly expand its partner network and to improve international presence during the coming years.


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