A trade journal of a still-emerging field, written by Adam Tinworth.

David McCandless

David McCandless – Information is Beautiful

Oh, look. David McCandless. I’be blogged his talks once or twice recently. He’s kicking off with his billion dollar-a-gram. He scraped all the data for it from journalism sites, but he did it manually. Did it via searches on billion dollar amounts on sites. Drew the proportional shapes in Adobe Illustrator. And then played Tetris with them until the fitted together.

He sketches ideas for his visualisations, trying to match the style of the graphic to the feel of the data being conveyed – triangles are more conspiratorial, for instance…

Spreadsheets underlie a lot of his work – word processors are linear, while spreadsheets are multi-directional – and you can bring in live elements. They’re very tidy, and they can be the start of a great design. Visualisations go through many drafts, as he works on the details of layout with the person commissioning it. The designer on the time travel visualisation left after the 13th of 14th draft. McCandless then realised that time travel was a chaotic thing, and that a visualisation that embraced that would work – and allowed you to see crossover points between various time-travel movies… Sometimes the form of the visualisation only emerges during the work – you discover the important data as you go.

What doesn’t work? Too much spaghetti – not shaping the data with a story – just creates a mess. Circular diagrams often make little sense. Cartograms (based on geography) are over-used and the information is difficult to get out.

McCandless’s bif FAIL:

McCandless FAIL

Can you figure out why?