About
Randy Krum
President of InfoNewt.
Data Visualization and Infographic Design

Infographic Design

Infographics Design | Presentations
Consulting | Data Visualizations

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From the Bookstore

Caffeine Poster

The Caffeine Poster infographic

Friday
Jun232017

The Big Book of Dashboards!

The Big Book of Dashboards is a fantastic new book release in 2017 co-authored by Steve Wexler, Jeffrey Shaffer, and Andy Cotgreave. Published by Wiley, the book is available in print and ebook. You can check it out here on Amazon!

The book starts with good data visualization design practices and then dives into 28 case studies of real dashboard designs in practice. The case studies are design tool agnostic, covering good dashboard designs from a variety of design tools. It doesn't matter what software you use, you will find inspiration and great examples in this book!

I met the co-authors at this year's Tapestry Conference, and interviewed them about the book below.

This month (June 2017) I'm giving away one copy to a lucky winner!  Register on the Giveaways Page by June 30th to be entered.

 

 

Who is the book intended for?

Steve Wexler: Anyone tasked with building or overseeing the development of business dashboards.

 

The three of you are in distant locations from each other. What was your process to collaborate on writing the book?

Steve Wexler: It wasn’t just the three of us!  While we were the authors, the book has 17 contributors and we would have web-sharing sessions with all of them so we could understand the rationale behind the dashboards.  There were also many cases where we would ask them to either defend their decisions or make some refinements.

In any case, we web-conferenced and relied very heavily on Slack to handle asynchronous collaboration.  The slack channels are massive (you should see all the discussions on the definition of the dashboard).

Andy Cotgreave: We also used Join Me for teleconferencing and Dropbox for file sharing. Looking back, it’s incredible how technology facilitates close collaboration across the world. 

 

How do you define what is a dashboard?

Steve Wexler: A dashboard is a visual display of data used to monitor conditions and / or facilitate understanding. Yes, it’s a broad definition.

Jeff Shaffer: There were long discussions on this one. We really considered Stephen Few’s definition, but picked apart terms like “single screen” and “monitored at a glance”. For example, does printing a dashboard and taking it into a meeting disqualify it from being called a “dashboard”? We think it’s still a dashboard and while it may not be used to monitor something in that instance, it does facilitate understanding. Another example is a “dashboard” that is presented on a tablet or phone where scrolling off a single screen is necessary. Technology, and screen size, is constantly changing, so while our definition is broad, I find it more accurate.

 

Why should dashboards be elegant or visually appealing?

Steve Wexler: I guess for the same reason that your want a computer, phone, appliance, etc., to be elegant or visually appealing.  For certain, the dashboard must first be functional (i.e., inform, enlighten, and engage) but the “engage” part is more likely if the experience with the dashboard is pleasant.

Andy Cotgreave: You need people to engage with a dashboard. Don Norman defines success according to three levels of processing: Visceral, Behavioural and Reflective. Each needs to succeed. The first response is Visceral - it’s an instant emotional reaction to whether you like something. It takes little effort to ensure the colours, fonts, layout of a dashboard is appealing, but it’s vital to get that visceral response right. The “functional” part comes next, in the behavioural level.

 

Do dashboards have a size limit? How large can they go?

Steve Wexler: They should be bigger than a bread box and smaller than the Empire State Building. Goodness, it depends on so many things -- the audience, the platform (desktop vs. tablet vs. mobile) and so on.

Looking at the 28 scenarios in the book, with the exception of the Financial Times Economy at a Glance dashboard, none of the desktop-based dashboard have any scrolling (many of the mobile-dashboard do provide for scrolling).  

As for the number of distinct charts on a dashboard the examples run from as few as one to around a dozen.

Interestingly, two of the examples that have a dozen or so charts are from Dundas, but because they are elegant and visually appealing you don’t feel overwhelmed by them.

Andy Cotgreave: Traditionally I’d have said they should fit on a single screen. But as mobile takes over, I think that is changing. The Financial Time Economies at a Glance dashboard is very very tall and designed for scrolling. It works extremely well on mobile. A starting rule of thumb would be to try to keep everything on one page.

 

How do you address the challenge of choosing the right type of chart for a given data set?

Steve Wexler: That is the raison d'être for the book! Given a particular predicament / scenario, and given the data you have, what is the chart or combination of charts that shine the most, brightest light on the subject?  That’s what we’re trying to do.

And very often that chart or combination of charts may not be what you expect.  Andy wrote a terrific chapter on visualizing time and shows there are so many cases where you don’t want to use a line chart.

Jeff Shaffer: It all starts what you are trying to show with the data. Presenting time is a great example. We have an entire chapter devoted to the different ways to show time, i.e. data over time. Typically a line chart would be a great way to show trend over time, but there are many other ways to visualize time.

 

What are the key mistakes people make in their dashboards?

Steve Wexler: Too much clutter and not enough clarity.  Plus we’ll often see people putting too much emphasis on decoration and not enough on information.

Jeff Shaffer: The misuse of color. People using color incorrectly or in an overwhelming way. We talk in depth about this in the opening chapter and throughout the book in many of the examples.

 

What advice would you give young professionals just getting started with visualizing data?

Steve Wexler: Seek feedback when building dashboards.  You need to meet with your audience, often, to make sure what you’re building actually helps the intended audience. 

 

What’s available for readers on the bigbookofdashboards.com site?

Steve Wexler: There are links to articles, podcasts, and workshops.  We’re also posted downloadable versions of many of the dashboards featured on the book.

 

Where can people follow all of you online?

Jeff Shaffer -- @highvizability, www.dataplusscience.com
Andy Cotgreave -- @acotgreave, gravyanecdote.com
Steve Wexler, @vizbizwiz, www.datarevelations.com

 

Are there any events coming up related to the book?

 Steve and Jeff are offering a workshop in Atlanta on June 14  and will be offering more workshops throughout the year (See http://bigbookofdashboards.com/workshops.html)

Andy, Jeff, and Steve will be offering a free webinar on how to build world-class business dashboards on June 21.  (See https://www.tableau.com/learn/webinars/big-book-of-dashboards)

We will all be at the Tableau Conference in Las Vegas, presenting sessions, and signing books!

 

Tuesday
Jun062017

The Sci-Fi Timeline

The Sci-Fi Timeline

The Sci-fi genre contains some fantastic and horrifying ideas about the future, but how far away are they? The Sci-Fi Timeline created by Glow places classic sci-fi movies and games on a very long timeline.

We're all used to seeing movies and games set in the future, but often the date can seem a bit abstract.

We've brought together some of our favourites to show yo the timeline and where they all fit. There were some surprises!

See for yourself, and decide if the writers got it right!

Thanks to David for the link!

Friday
May262017

The Colors of Mister Rogers' Cardigans

Every Color Of Cardigan Mister Rogers Wore infographic

Owen Phillips was recently transfixed watching a Mister Rogers' Neighborhood marathon, and after finding the data, visualized Every Color Of Cardigan Mister Rogers Wore From 1979–2001 for The Awl.

From Owen:

For the past few days I’ve been transfixed by the “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” marathon that began on Monday afternoon over on Twitch. Like watching the “Joy of Painting” with Bob Ross, zoning out to “Mister Rogers” is an exercise in escapism. After Rogers helped reset my brain I began to wonder about all the handsome, colorful sweaters he famously wore. Did Rogers have a favorite?

Fortunately, Tim Lybarger, a 40 year-old high school counselor from just outside of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, wondered the same thing a few years ago. Back in 2011, on his blog devoted to all things Mister Rogers, neighborhoodarchive.com, Lybarger recorded the color of every sweater Rogers wore in each episode between 1979 and 2001. “When I realized such a resource didn’t exist,” Lybarger told me over email, “I just felt like somebody needed to do it…might as well be me.”

The chart above uses the data Lybarger meticulously collected to show how Rogers’ preferences for the color of his cardigan changed over time.

Every Color Of Cardigan Mister Rogers Wore Linear

When Owen organized them in a linear order, he found that color trends definitely appears. Later years had many more darker colors.

Found on FlowingData

Wednesday
May242017

Interactive Cocktail Shaker

Interactive Cocktail Shaker interactive infographic

David McCandless and the team at Information Is Beautiful have created this impressive Guide to Cocktails in both interactive and static versions.

75+ classic cocktail recipes from the International Bartender’s Association’s list of drinks every bartender should know.

Forget old-school measures like ml and oz. We’ve calculated our own universal metric. One of any ingredient represents one part of any measuring vessel you choose: cup, spoon, lid, shoe, whatever – it’s your party! These universal recipes scale up for any level of mayhem. Enjoy! Um…responsibly of course.

Select the booze in your cabinet: our 'measurement agnostic' interactive will conjure the rest.

All of their designs are very Data Transparent, and they have made all of the data from this design available in this Google Spreadsheet listed in the footer for anyone to see.

Tuesday
May232017

How Do You Spend the Days of Your Life?

How the Average Working Adult Spends Days

Nathan Yau from FlowingData has taken an in-depth look at the statistics behind How the Average Working Adult Spends Days in their lifetime.

There were some graphics going around that showed the total amount of time spent during an average person’s lifetime doing things. The numbers were pretty rough though.

For example, to calculate the number of days spent sleeping during a lifetime, it was assumed that the average person sleeps eight hours per day, and then estimates just extrapolated for life expectancy. But sleep patterns change as you age. You start to sleep less as you get older.

So I tried taking this into account using data from the American Time Use Survey. I still used averages, but I calculated averages for each year of life and then aggregated. Here’s what I got for adulthood (18 and older) — the time you’re presumably making your own choices. Employment and retirement are assumed.

Again, these are still averages for an adult who works and then retires around 65 years, so the same caveats apply as usual. Everyone’s own totals will be a bit different, especially as you compare across groups. For example, the time distribution for parents looks different from the distribution for those who never have kids. Similarly, some never enter the labor force whereas others work full-time.

The data is from the American Time Use Survey, which is made more easily available from IPUMS. After downloading data for 2011 through 2015, I tabulated and charted in R. Also, maybe you noticed that the number of squares doesn’t quite add up to 22,573. This is due to rounding, which offset the total above by three days.

I prefer data visualizations like this that show the actual number of days as squares (or other shapes/icons) instead of summarizing them together into a stacked bar chart or a doughnut chart. Seeing the full number of days represented gives the readfers a better understanding of the true magnitude of the values being shown

Found on Big Think

Wednesday
May172017

How 5 Tech Giants Make Their Billions

How 5 Tech Giants Make Their Billions

How 5 Tech Giants Make Their Billions is a good doughnut-style data visualization design from Visual Capitalist.

These five tech companies are the most valuable stocks in the U.S. market, worth a collective $2.9 trillion in market capitalization. In 2016, these companies combine for $555 billion in revenue, and a $94 billion bottom line.

Each of these companies is pretty unique in how they generate revenue, though there is some overlap:

  • Facebook and Alphabet each make the vast majority of their revenues from advertising (97% and 88%, respectively)
  • Apple makes 63% of their revenue from the iPhone, and another 21% coming from the iPad and Mac lines
  • Amazon makes 90% from its “Product” and “Media” categories, and 9% from AWS
  • Microsoft is diverse: Office (28%), servers (22%), Xbox (11%), Windows (9%), ads (7%), Surface (5%), and other (18%)

The doughnuts are simple and easy to read with match brand colors and a minimal number of slices. I always prefer that pie charts and doughtnut charts consistently start at the top, but these are aligned with the callouts to the right. I also prefer the slices to be sequenced in descending order.

One potential issue is that the doughtnut charts are all the same diameter, which can visually imply that all of these companies are similar in size. I know the market capitalization, revenue and earning are shown in bars to the left, but they're much smaller. I think it would work better if the doughnut charts were actually sized to match each company's revenue number.

Monday
May152017

Elon Musk's Resume of Failures

Elon Musk's Resume of Failures infographic

It's very common for super successful people to have their fair share of failures along the way. But Elon Musk has an astonishing amount of failures that has led to his massive success! In fact, so many that Kickresume has created a resume out of them. The Elon Musk's Resume of Failures highlights his major negative business and personal moments in his adult life. Probably more of a timeline than a resume.

Failure is frustrating. Failure is something you don’t put on your resume. On the contrary! One does not simply write a resume of his or her failures (Hint: we’re going to do it). At the same time, if you attempt great things, your failures are probably going to be just as impressive as your accomplishments.

There’s probably no other person alive today who embodies this notion more than Elon Musk.

Sure, he’s considered a genius who also happens to be worth $14 billion.Certainly, many of his ideas have turned into realities. Arguably, he revolutionised every industry he has ever touched: eCommerce (PayPal), automotive industry (Tesla), space flights (SpaceX), and sustainable energy (SolarCity). Still, all of these accomplishments pale in comparison to his ability to fail.

Read more at https://blog.kickresume.com

Thanks to Tomas for sending in the link!

Friday
May052017

Six Maps that Show America’s Infrastructure

Tim Meko, a graphic reported at the Washington Post, designs some fantastic data visualizations. Six Maps that Show the Anatomy of America’s Vast Infrastructure is a great visual exploration of what makes America run. Check out the original article for more explanation of each map and more visual details.

Found on FlowingData

Thursday
May042017

Evolution of the Game Console

Evolution of the Game Console infographic

The Evolution of the Game Console infographic from OnBuy.com remembers our childhood with a timeline of the last 18 major game consoles.

Bound to bring back fond childhood memories, (for most of us!) our infographic takes you through the fascinating evolution of the home games console. Dating back to 1972 when the Magnavox Odyssey was released, our infographic will guide you through the technological advancements of the last 45 years, right up to Microsoft’s 4K-ready Project Scorpio, set to launch in December 2017.

Intrigued? We bet! Now, kick back, relax and enjoy the wonderful world of gaming.

As much as I like the content and remembering playing on the consoles, this timeline is not well designed. It's not that hard to actually line up the consoles with the correct years instead of just showing them in pairs no matter what the dates are. Why even bother putting them into chronological order if you're not going to line them up correctly?

For businesses, a timeline history of their industry is a great topic idea for an infographic.

Thanks to David for sending in the link!

Tuesday
May022017

A History of Space Travel infographic poster

A History of Space Travel is a new infographic poster from Pop Chart Lab that covers the spacecraft, launch vehicles, space suits and mission timelines from countries all over Earth. Prints of this 24"x36" poster are available for $35 unframed, or more for framed options.

Make some space on your wall for our second infographic foray into the final frontier! This timeline of crewed space missions maps out over 400 extraterrestrial expeditions, spanning 1961 to present day. From the inaugural space race of Vostok vs. Mercury to the famed Apollo program to the International Space Station, this giant leap of a chart features stellar annotations for each mission, including full-color illustrations of all spacesuits and spacecraft. A simply stunning celestial survey, this chronicling of cosmic voyages is sure to have starry-eyed enthusiasts totally over the moon.