Source: Josh Marshall, Artifacts #1: The First Map of Africa, talkingpointsmemo.com, March 7, 2014, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/artifacts-1-the-first-map-of-africa.
Mr. Marshall notes that the map below is believed to be the first map of Africa, as a continent. “Africa” was originally a Roman term for the region of modern Tunisia and the western portion of Libya. The Arabs later adopted a similar definition. But this is the first known map of the new concept of Africa as a continent stretching from North Africa down to a southern tip that could be rounded and from which you could then sail on to India and Asia.
Princeton University, Historic Maps Collection.
The map is the work of Sebastian Munster (1489-1552), a professor of Hebrew at the University of Basel. This is mid-16th century, so going on 60 years after Europeans first rounded the Cape of Good Hope to Asia, though the Portuguese had been exploring the western coast of Africa a good deal longer.
Mr. Marshall continues by saying that this map is a fascinating period in the history of European map-making since most were then being strung together through an odd partnership between university academics and printers in Europe on the one hand and explorers and traders on the other, the former still partly hung up on ancient ideas on the shape and outlines of the world as well as theories about where certain things must be and the latter with real observational data about what they’d seen.
Not surprisingly, North Africa is fairly accurate and the key rivers in West Africa bear at least some resemblance to their true locations. Things get a good deal iffier about Central Africa and the scale of Subsaharan Africa. And there’s a pretty serious Ethiopia fail. It’s right over the one-eyed giants who live in Nigeria. When you consider the limited observational knowledge, extremely poor ability to measure distance, obstacles to communications and the fact that the key sea-faring powers treated all this information as state secrets, the degree of accuracy is fairly remarkable.
In viewing the map below, Mr. Marshall notes that still more remarkable is this Abraham Ortelius map from only 30 years later. Published at Antwerp in 1584.
Princeton University. Historic Maps Collection.
As you can see, on a quick look this could almost be a modern map of Africa, though many things are distorted, not least the scale of the Red Sea relative to the rest of the continent.
This is something I find to be very worthwhile and a great tool to have available when you have data, but can’t decide on which visualization is best to use.
Originally, Severino started this project as a way to develop his own knowledge of data visualisation and to create a reference tool for him to use in the future for his own work. Fortunately for us, Severino thought it would also be useful tool to not only other designers, but also anyone in a field that requires the use of data visualisation regularly (economists, scientists, statisticians etc).
Severino website is very comprehensive, detailed and can help you decide the right method for your needs.
He plans on adding in new visualisation methods, bit-by-bit, as he continues to research each method to find the best way to explain how it works and what it is best suited for.
The project itself is in the developmental stages at the moment.
All news and website updates can be found on Twitter.
I also encourage you to donate to this cause. I just donated today.
Below is an example of how Severino has catalogued the Bar Chart
Airlines Charge Thousands Extra for a Few Inches of Legroom on Long Flights
For most fliers, the ideal seat on a flight is usually in first or business class. However, for airlines, the sweet spot on long-haul flights is, increasingly, farther back in the plane.
A new hybrid class, called premium economy, is appearing on more planes due to its attractive economics. The seats generally give passengers a bit more space than traditional coach and often come with extra amenities like better food. Tickets are pricier than for basic economy, but still much cheaper than flying up front.
For carriers, the whole package costs much less than business class. That means they only need to spend a bit extra to generate higher fares than tourist class and can still pack in seats. Airline executives say it can be the most profitable cabin.
The favorable equation is part of what prompted Deutsche Lufthansa AG to start rolling out a new premium economy section on all intercontinental flights as of this coming October.
Airlines, like passengers, fret about space. Fliers want as much elbow and knee room as possible, while carriers want to make optimal use of each square foot. Lufthansa’s new seat gives passengers up to seven extra inches to stretch their legs, and four more inches at shoulder-height because each row has two fewer seats than in traditional economy class. There are no shared arm rests.
Lufthansa’s new seat takes up about 50% more floorspace than a traditional economy seat.
A round-trip premium economy ticket will average €600 ($824) more than basic economy. Business-class seats, meanwhile, use three times the area of standard economy seats and round-trip fares are €2,000 higher on average.
The trend has gathered speed due to widening differences between the front and back of international airliners. Over the past 15 years, most global carriers have upgraded their business cabins with seats that spread out into flat beds. These are so luxurious that most airlines have ditched first class.
To make room for these loungers, airlines have squeezed coach class. First they compressed rows by shaving knee space. Now many are wedging an extra seat into each row, although Lufthansa has no plans to do that.
The German carrier considered introducing premium economy twice before and its hesitation shows the cabin’s potential downside. Airlines want economy fliers to buy pricier seats, rather than business travelers opting for cheaper ones. Only after Lufthansa in 2012 began upgrading its business class to horizontal beds from slanted ones was it confident of not cannibalizing its own premium traffic.
Source: Daniel Michaels, Why This Plane Seat Is the Most Profitable, March 4, 2014, http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304585004579418992081321538?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424052702304585004579418992081321538.html.
Robert Kosara is a Visual Analysis Researcher at Tableau Software, and formerly Associate Professor of Computer Science at UNC Charlotte. He has created visualization techniques like Parallel Sets and performed research into the perceptual and cognitive basics of visualization. Recently, Robert’s research has focused on how to communicate data using tools from visualization, and how storytelling can be adapted to incorporate data, interaction, and visualization.
Robert received his M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in computer science from Vienna University of Technology (Vienna, Austria). His list of publications can be found online on his vanity website. He can be found on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Google Scholar.
When Robert was in Portland over the holidays a few weeks ago, he noticed a visualization in the local newspaper, The Oregonian. He had never heard of that before, nor of Mark Friesen, who created it. Robert began wondering how many news-related visualizations he might be missing, so he decided to build a website that would collect them all: newsvis.org.
Robert notes that there is already great news-related visualization work in The New York Times, The Washington Post, etc., but feels there are not many other Web site dedicated to data visualizations for journalism.
Dr. Kosara also feels it is hard to find news visualizations. He sites as an example “that scatterplot-like thing showing groups of voters who were going to vote for Romney vs. McCain in the Republican primaries in 2008″, but where was it? And when? He points out that, for a while, The New York Times was downright hiding its graphics: you’d see them on their front page for a short time, and then you’d never be able to find them again. Too bad, you’re too late; it’s gone! This has changed, and there are now Twitter accounts and tumblrs to follow, but none of them are searchable in any reasonable way.
He also notes that there are many other questions you might ask about news visualizations. When was the first scatterplot published? How many timelines have there been about sports in the last five years? Does The Washington Post create more bar charts or line charts?
To remedy this, Robert created NewsViz.org. Robert states that NewsVis.org can’t answer all those questions quite yet, but it’s a start. He notes that the site is fairly basic right now, but in the spirit of kaizen, he has decided to publish it and start collecting material and feedback for improvements.
There are three main parts to it:
- The front page, which lists visualizations in reverse chronologic order (by their publication date).
- The sidebar, with filters to pick particular visualization types, media, etc.
- The submission form – easily the most important part of the site.
Dr. Kosara points out that the key to making this work is the submission form. He feels he can’t possibly populate the site with all the work out there by himself. He also depend on readers to find the hidden gems that he is not aware of.
He notes that there is a trade-off between making this form too complicated and collecting enough data to make the site useful. While it may seem a bit overwhelming at first, it’s actually quite quick to fill out and submit a graphic.
The required information currently is the following:
- The title of the piece
- The byline, which is split into two parts. The first part contains a search field that has a few people already in its list. This will be expanded over time, so it will be easier to submit work by the same people. For authors who are not yet listed there, there is a separate input field. Robert will add all the missing names to the top field when he publishes a piece.
- Publication date. When was this published? If you can’t figure it out, a reasonable guess also works.
- The link to the piece.
- The medium. Similar to the above, there’s a quick search field and a field for media that are not yet listed.
- The topic. This is a taxonomy that he has built fairly ad-hoc and that he intends to keep as small as possible. He will expand it if necessary, and will take suggestions. But his goal is to not build The Ultimate Taxonomy of News here.
- The visualization technique. Same applies as above, especially since news visualizations often don’t nicely fit into particular chart types.
- The language. This is also a bit of a proxy for the country/region. Robert is still weighing if it makes sense to include countries, states, regions, political bodies (European Union, etc.), continents, etc. This can easily snowball into an unwieldy mess, so he is sticking to languages right now.
- Interactivity. Since this is meant to provide inspiration, Robert also want to be able to filter to more or less interactive pieces.
- A notes field. This is mostly to suggest things that don’t fit anywhere else (like new topics). It won’t be included in the actual published visualization page.
Robert notes that there is no limit on how much you can submit or whose work you submit. Submit stuff you like, or stuff you hate. Submit your own work! No reason to be shy, just submit it. You can provide a name, but there is no requirement. Provided submitter names are also not shown for now, but that might change.
The goal of this site is to be as complete as possible in a very narrowly-defined area: visualizations used in the news. Robert has set some rules listed on his the About page about what he consider news, but it’s pretty simple: if it’s published by a news medium, it’s news. If not, things get a bit more complicated and ad-hoc.
Every submission will get some loving hand-tweaking from him, and he will only publish submissions that fit the spirit of the site. Robert intends for this to be a high-quality site, with consistent standards for the images (cropping, resolution, etc.) and metadata. He feels that this is really the only way to make this useful and not drown in noise.
How to Contribute and Follow
Contributing is easy: just go to the submission form and submit stuff. It’s much simpler and faster than it looks.
You can follow the site via the RSS feed and on Twitter. Both will get every new submission. Since Robert uses the publication date of the visualization as the date of the posting, you will see items appear in the feed that seem to be coming from the past. By having just one date, he is able to avoid confusion, and the date the item was published on newsvis isn’t really all that interesting. This also makes it much easier to always keep the list sorted in chronological order of publication date (of the original), rather than submission date.
While the visualizations are their own content type on the site, there is also a blog. Blog posts will appear in the feed and on Twitter. Robert does not intend to write much there though, just notes about house-keeping and major changes or additions.
Under The Hood
Dr. Kosara built the site using WordPress, even though Drupal was, he feels, probably a more logical choice for this sort of database-centric site. After discovering Gravity Forms and seeing some documentation on Custom Post Types in WordPress, Robert decided to go with that, though. He notes that it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park, the WordPress documentation can easily compete with Drupal in terms of disorganization and lack of reasonable navigation. There is also an incredible amount of noise when searching for answers, with lots of people simply repeating the same bits of information but never digging any deeper. But he feels overall the model is still simpler, even if also much more limited than in Drupal.
Either way, Robert plans on continuing to keep improving and growing the site, and he hopes that you will find it useful and contribute!
Data, Patternicity, and Biases
Last Wednesday, Alberto Cairo gave a keynote presentation at the Tapestry conference. The day after (Thursday), he spoke at the Investigative Reporters and Editors meeting (CAR2014.) In both talks Alberto discussed some topics that are concerning him.
Mr. Cairo is considered by many (including me) to be one of the industry’s leading experts on infographics and a person I respect and view as a mentor.
Mr. Cairo’s keynote focused on the rise of activism and P.R. (he views them as expressions of the same phenomenon) in visualization and in communication in general. He discusses that he has nothing against people having opinions and agendas —is it possible not to have them? However, Alberto feels that some designers and journalists seem to be too willing to surrender to their biases rather than working hard to curb them.
He continues that these communicators usually argue that being transparent about their motives and goals is enough. Mr. Cairo argues that it is not. Writing about journalism, Jay Rosen and Jeff Jarvis have suggested that transparency is the new objectivity. Mr. Cairo disagrees. He states,
Transparency is necessary to gain credibility, but it’s not sufficient, and this is valid for non-journalistic infographics and visualization, too. The old notion of ‘objectivity’ in journalism was simplistic and unworkable, but that doesn’t mean that we should rush to drop the ideal outright.
Another area of concern that Mr. Cairo mentioned at CAR2014: Opinions that may lead you to cherry-pick data are not the main risk. Unconscious cognitive biases are even more dangerous. He discussed Michael Shermer’s patternicity. Mr. Cairo expressed concern that the more he learns about patternicity and cognitive biases, the more worried he becomes about our lack of understanding of them. He further points out that they are not explained in schools of design, as far as he knows. They certainly aren’t studied seriously and systematically in journalism schools. That, he states, is a huge issue.
Interesting Sound Bites from Alberto
- Conscious decisions are not the only risk. Cognitive biases and political ideals can lead us astray, as well. They are much more dangerous, in fact.
- When we are strongly ideologically or politically motivated, we are also more likely to find patterns in the data that confirm our preconceived ideas.
- We journalists like to say “trust your instincts!” Well, that’s very bad advice. PLEASE, DON’T. Don’t trust your instincts. Your instincts are a source like any other. And you should always try to double-check your sources.
New Book in 2015
Mr. Cairo will have a new book out near the end of 2015. It is tentatively titled ”The Insightful Art.”
On the left, in the image below, is the cover of “The Functional Art,” which was published in 2012 and a book I highly recommend you read. The cover example on the right, shown below, is just one of the alternatives he is pondering for the new book.
New MOOC Course in 2015
Mr. Cairo is currently working on a completely new MOOC, co-taught with Scott Murray (photo right) Mr. Murray wrote the book Interactive Visualization for the Web. I have included an image of the cover of his book below. Alberto and Scott’s goal is to offer something at the beginning of 2015.
Stay tuned. I will provide more information about this course in a future blog post as I get more information.
California, supplier of nearly half of all U.S. fruits, veggies, and nuts, is on track to experience the driest year in the past half millennium. Farms use about 80 percent of the state’s “developed water,” or water that’s moved from its natural source to other areas via pipes and aqueducts.
As the maps above show, much of California’s agriculture is concentrated in the parts of the state that the drought has hit the hardest. For example: Monterey County, which is currently enduring an “exceptional drought,” according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, grew nearly half of America’s lettuce and broccoli in 2012.
When it comes to water use, not all plants are created equal. Here’s how much water some of California’s major crops require:
Jay Lund, a water expert at the University of California-Davis, says that water problems mean that agriculture may soon play a less important role in California’s economy, as the business of growing food moves to the South and the Midwest, where water is less expensive. Production rates for thirsty crops like alfalfa and cotton have already diminished significantly in the last few years. Between 2006 and 2010 alone, the amount of land irrigated for cotton fell by 46 percent.
In addition to farms, the drought affects municipal water supplies. There is so little water this year that some places are in danger of running out — and the little that is left could soon become undrinkable because of the high concentration of pollutants.
So how are Californians doing on water conservation? Here’s how some cities stack up:
Source: Alex Park and Julia Lurie, It takes how much water to grow an almond?!, grist.org, February 24, 2014, http://grist.org/food/it-takes-how-much-water-to-grow-an-almond/.
Alex Park is an editorial fellow at Mother Jones.
Julia Lurie is an editorial fellow at Mother Jones.
I came across a blog entry written back in September 2013 by Igor Ovsyannykov, who describes himself as a geek, blogger, and designer. Mr. Ovsyannykov discusses how best to design a Hang Tag for a piece of merchandise, in his case, apparel. In the apparel industry, the hang tag designed and used can influence whether a customer will purchase your product or not. If your tag looks cheap, customers may associate your clothing with poor quality. So, how do you design a hang tag that will influence your customer’s purchase decision? Read Igor’s recommendations below to find out how to create the perfect hang tag.
1. Make sure your hang tag reflects the market you want to sell your clothing in
There are a lot of different clothing markets, from kids’ clothing to high-end women’s clothing. If you’re selling clothing for kids, your hang tag should reflect this. Hang tags for children’s clothing should have bright colors and imagery that is attractive to kids.
However, clothing markets for children can have varied segments. If you are selling clothing for very babies and toddlers, your hang tags should be more directed towards parents. If you are selling high-end women’s clothing, your hang tag should look elegant and sophisticated.
Hang tags can enhance how your customer perceives a clothing item. Be aware of your key demographic and try to create your hang tag with this demographic in mind. To get an idea of whether your hang tag will be effective, get a lot of feedback from your friends, family, and colleagues.
2. Include tips on how the clothing item can be worn on the hang tag
The hang tag gives you a chance to tell your customers how your product should be used. You can use the hang tag to convince your customers to buy your product. You can do so by making an argument for the item’s usefulness or attractive design.
If you’re selling athletic or outdoor clothing, your hang tag should tell your customers how your clothing item is useful in that regard. For example, if you’re selling a winter jacket, specify for what kind of weather the jacket is ideal for? Let you customer know; put it on the hang tag. Similarly, if you make surf gear, your hang tags should explain what the item you’re selling is intended for. A lot of clothing is purchased as a gift by customers who know nothing about the clothing’s use. Always keep that at the back of your mind.
3. Add images to your tags
If you add images to your hang tags, you can give your customers a good idea what your product looks like when worn. You can also use images to illustrate other items that a clothing item would look good with. For example, if you’re selling a blouse, you could include an image of a woman wearing the blouse on the hang tag along with a pair of pants that complement the blouse.
Not only do images on hand tags allow you to suggest ways to wear an item to your customer, it can also persuade them to purchase your item. Images on hang tags are particularly influential for customers who are buying items as gifts. If a clothing item is being purchased as a gift, all the customer has to make a decision from is the image on the hang tag. They won’t be trying the item on to help them in their decision-making,
4. Make the name of your clothing line stick out
You want your customers to know who made the clothing item as soon as they look at the hang tag. If the brand name is hard to find, customers may think your clothing is low quality, because high quality clothing often has a very prominent name on the hang tag.
Keep in mind, however, that the name of your clothing line needs to be written to attract your key demographic. If you’re making budget work clothing, you might not want to have your clothing line written on the hang tag in a fancy cursive font. If you’re targeting hip young adults, you might want to write your name in a minimalistic fashion.
If your customers can easily see your clothing line name on the hang tag, they may remember it and purchase your products again in the future.
5. Include contact information on the hang tag
If you include a website or a telephone number, your customers will be able to find your products better. This information also makes you look more professional. It also may bring you additional business. For example, if a customer sees your product in a store but wants the product in a size that the store doesn’t have, they can go to your website to purchase it, and while they are at your website, they may purchase additional items.
Be careful when designing your hang tag. Do not rush the design and creation of your hang tag. Impatience can cost you potential future business. Follow Igor’s recommendations above and try to get as much feedback as possible on your designs. The perfect hang tag can make your clothing sell better and become more successful.
Below are some examples of hang tags that inspired Igor.
The Rare Collection
En Route Packaging
Carroll Shelby Collection
Denver Clothing Company
The Type Hunter Tag Concept by Keith Tatum
Self Promotion by Adriana James
Captainstyle fashion brand identity
Urban Zen – Naturally Haiti Tags
Odin Hang tag
The Printed Palette
Genuine Kids Denim Packaging
True Green by Free People Clothing
Thorn hang tag
Boss Orange Capsule
Trophy Hunting System
Crimson and Blue
Source: Igor Ovsyannykov, Designing a Hang Tag? Words of Advice and Inspiration Before You Start, Inspirationfeed.com, September 09, 2013, http://inspirationfeed.com/inspiration/print-inspiration/designing-a-hang-tag-words-of-advice-and-inspiration-before-you-start/.
Source: Richard S. Chang and Josh Reitz, Led Zeppelin’s ‘Black Dog’ Lyrics as a Flowchart, redbull.com, January 31, 2014, http://www.redbull.com/us/en/music/stories/1331631044382/led-zeppelins-black-dog-lyrics-as-a-flowchart.
So, when I left Detroit Monday evening, they had just reached their fourth snowiest winter of all recorded time. The Detroit Free Press newspaper had even included this infographic to show you snowfall in Detroit and its surrounding areas plus the all-time snowiest winter vertical bar chart.
However, by midnight, an additional 3.5 inches of snow had fallen, with more expected to fall into the night, according to meteorologist Steven Freitag of the National Weather Service in White Lake Township. Monday’s storm pushed the total winter snowfall to 76.4 inches, surpassing the record set in 1981-82 and making this one the third snowiest winter in Detroit on record.
So, this chart is now obsolete, but it gives you a good idea of how much snow the Detroit area has had this year-to-date.
Stay safe, Detroiters. Drive a bit slower and stay inside.