Last week, Jess Bachman (@mibi) from WallStats.com released the new 2011 Death & Taxes poster. I caught up with Jess (by email) to ask some questions about his huge infographic undertaking. The high-resolution image of the poster is available now online, and the printed version will start shipping on May 7th. You can pre-order for $24, and the shipping cost is only $0.75 TODAY (April 28th)
WIN a copy of the poster! Jess has been kind enough to offer a free poster to a reader of Cool Infographics. To be eligible, you must tweet (or retweet) a link to this post on Twitter before May 7th, and include the #deathandtaxes hashtag. I included the hashtag in the post title, so any retweets will be automatically eligible. NOTE: you must also be following me on Twitter (@rtkrum) so that I can send you a DM if you have won!
“Death and Taxes” is a large representational graph and poster of the federal budget. It contains over 500 programs and departments and almost every program that receives over 200 million dollars annually. The data is straight from the president’s 2011 budget request and will be debated, amended, and approved by Congress to begin the fiscal year. All of the item circles are proportional in size to their funding levels for visual comparison and the percentage change from both 2010 and 2001 is included so you can spot trends.
The detail in this poster is stunning, and in this small shot you can see how the total budget request breaks out. Only the “Military/Nat. Security Discretionary” and “Non-Military/Nat. Security Discretionary” portions of the budget request details are displayed in the poster.
Jess was also nice enough to answer a few interview questions I sent him:
Cool Infographics: What software applications do you use for the Death & Taxes posters?
Jess Bachman: The only applications I use are Photoshop and Excel. Excel is where I in put all the data and it crunches the numbers, adjusts for inflation and calculates diameters. Photoshop is where I put it all together and the PSD file occasionally exceeds 1 gig so it can be a beast to work with. Saving takes about 5 minutes.
Cool Infographics: What’s your design process?
Jess Bachman: Normally I start from scratch and layout the images and make them fit; however, this year the budget didn’t change all that much, likely being from the same President, so I was able to keep the 2010 format and change the size of circles. Of course some things had to be added and removed. So this year I saved myself about 3 weeks of work just getting right into it, but the design process is grueling. it’s small tasks, repeated 500 times.
Cool Infographics: What’s the most interesting thing you learned from the data?
Jess Bachman: I can definitely see the differences in Presidents from Bush to Obama. Lots of reductions on the military side this year and the whole security climate as a whole isn’t as fiscally robust as it was a few years ago. Much more progressive funding with Obama too. Every year Bush would cut climate change research, now its back, along with other green tech. For some reason, public proadcasting gets the hack saw every year no matter who’s in office.
Cool Infographics: Where are some of your favorite places that have the Death & Taxes poster on display?
Jess Bachman: Well it’s always good to see it on display in schools and classrooms. But I really enjoy hearing from military members who have in their offices or even in station. I have sent several to Afghanistan. Critics often say the poster is anti-military, but the military is quite receptive to it, even the former Dept. of Defense Comptroller, Tina Jonas, loved the poster. Some people from the Dept of Energy’s Oak Ridge Lab displayed the poster on their 30’ Everest computer screen… that was cool too.
Cool Infographics: What’s the hardest part when developing the poster?
Jess Bachman: The hardest part is just getting through all the rote data processing and mindless photoshopping. The research side is quite fun, and going through the military budgets is a trip with all their classified and hi-tech programs. However, copying and pasting 5,000 times really takes a toll on my creativity and motivation.
Cool Infographics: You said you do a lot of copy & paste work, in what format do you get the data?
Jess Bachman: Some of the government data is in Excel already, but there is no context so I am dubious about working solely with their data sets. Mostly I pull the numbers from the actual printed budget, which is in PDF form. So I end up copying and pasting the program name and its funding level for 3 years into Excel, then I copy and paste the program name, funding level, and percentages back into photoshop as a text layer. Rinse and repeat 500 times. Many people ask if there was an automated way to create the poster each year and I wish there was, but the confines of the paper make size and fit a manual process.
Cool Infographics: Where do you have them printed, what are the printing specs and why?
Jess Bachman: I get my posters printed from a company called PrintPelican in Florida. There really are no cheaper prices out there but I opt for a thicker cut of paper than usual. I get 100# gloss cover which is a few shades from a business card in thickness. To be honest, they have screwed up my order a few times over the years but we have always managed to work it out. I usually print runs of 1000-2500 and always 24” x 36”.
Cool Infographics: How do you handle all of the printing and shipping of the posters? Do you tube them yourself?
Jess Bachman: I used to do it all myself. I had a 400lb brick of posters next to my bed, and 12 giant boxes of tubes all over the house, and I would roll pack and ship them all. Now I use two shippers who do fulfillment of the orders for me. For a while I would send them the orders and addresses weekly but I have offloaded that duty as well. I think the self shipping method is a good lesson in customer service and its good to know your product inside and out, but after while my time became more valuable than stuffing tubes could afford.
Cool Infographics: You’ve used a few different online zoomable image services in the last few years, what have you learned?
Jess Bachman: There are lots of zooming options out there and new ones seem to pop up all the time. I used Zoomify until it felt too clunky and slow, then Zoomorama which I really loved for its performance and options. This year I experimented with an self hosted open source app called Open Zoom and it certainly was a slick and great user experience, unfortunately the demands it placed on my server from huge inflows of traffic proved too much, taking down the whole site. So I had to switch to my backup, which was Closr.it, and let them deal with server demands. Closr.it has been very attentive to my needs and I have found that most developers will work with me to tailor a custom solution if I ask. The zooming apps keep getting better so I expect to keep changing apps as long as the space keeps innovating.
Cool Infographics: You mentioned the 30’ display, have you printed it out in larger sizes?
Jess Bachman: No, I have not printed it out any larger. The file being Photoshop, and the images being mostly rastered do not allow quality printing beyond the poster size. The file is 300 dpi so I could get away with a slightly larger size, but oversize printing is expensive and who wants a poster that big anyways.
Cool Infographics: Where do the images come from?
Jess Bachman: Most of the military images come from defenseLINK, which is a great repository for hi-res military photos. Other images come from stock photography sites for the most part. It does help that most government logos are round. I suppose it’s just an old school way of doing things, government seals and all. The design aesthetic amongst government logos is really all over the map though, and its quite interesting. Some look like that are from the 1700’s, and some from the 2700’s.
There was one correction to the online version that Jess has posted:
So I totally had the wrong data for NASA on the visual. Here is the corrected image, which reflects what you have been reading in the news. Science up, space down. I fixed it before it was printed, don’t worry.
You can view the image, buy the poster and more at the new site DeathandTaxesPoster.com.
SPECIAL: If you pre-order the poster TODAY (April 28th) shipping is only $0.75!
I really like The Color of Twitter from InfoChimps.org that plots the background colors used by all 40 million of the Twitter.com users. I do think the infographic would be better if they had actually extended out the default light blue color instead of just noting that it extends 4.8x longer. They also don’t account for background images that cover the background color, which would account for a large number of people not changing their colors.
As part of the release of a number of new, free Twitter data sets, Infochimps created the following beautiful infographic showing just what color Twitter really is.
The data for the infographic comes from the just-launched Histograms dataset that aggregates anonymous data about Twitter users such as how many users have x number of friends or followers, or how many users are in x location. The company also released new data sets (paid) about stock tickers, hashtags and URLs on Twitter.
Found on Mashable.com
This article was originally published on “Digital Newsgathering”, a class blog for Journalism 226 at San Francisco State University, Instructor: Staci Baird. I wrote this post as a guest author, and with permission I am republishing it here.
Assuming you’re not working for a media corporation with huge graphics and statistics departments at your disposal, you may want to create some infographics for your own articles. With today’s flood of information, infographics allow readers to quickly digest and understand complex data. A good infographic will not only inform readers, but will also create interest and convince people to read your article similar to how good headlines and photos attract readers. In contrast, both boring and overly complex graphics will quickly convince readers to ignore your article.
Here are 10 tips for designing better infographics (click the images to go to their original sites):
1) Be Concise: Design your infographic to convey one idea really well. You’re not writing a scientific research paper, so don’t expect your reader to dig into a lot of detail. This doesn’t mean you should only visualize one number, but your entire graphic should support one of the major points from the article. You can include additional facts or information to make the infographic stand on its own, but don’t lose sight of the point you want to get across.
This example is an infographic poster I created about the caffeine content in drinks. At this size, you can easily tell which drinks have more or less caffeine, and if you decide to view the higher-resolution image you can dig deeper into the details and additional information that’s included in the poster.
2) Be Visual: Design your infographic with your final for viewing size in mind. A number of articles online require the viewers to click on a text link to view the graphics that accompany an article, and I believe this is a huge mistake. Design your graphics to be viewed in-line with your article. There’s nothing wrong with allowing viewers to click the image to see a high-resolution version, but they should be able to understand the image when viewed with the article. A side benefit is that a viewable image also allows for readers to share the image by itself on social media sites easily.
3) Be Smarter: Build your data and explanation right into the infographic, and don’t make your readers have to work hard to understand what they’re seeing. Your infographic shouldn’t need a legend to be understandable, and there’s no reason to ask your readers to keep moving their eyes back and forth between the chart and the legend to understand the graphic. Treat your readers as intelligent and make your graphic look professional by including the relevant descriptions and numbers in the infographic.
4) Be Transparent: Infographics can be used to lead readers to the wrong conclusions. Always cite your data sources and allow readers to dig deeper into the data if they have the desire. Some of the best articles include easy access to the source data with links to a spreadsheet for readers to view on their own.
5) Be Different: If you can avoid it, don’t use a bar chart, a line chart or a pie chart. This infographic of visualization styles is a great resource to help determine a good visual to use for your data. The different styles are grouped together by the type do data they are trying to communicate and in the interactive version, an example is shown as you mouse over each style.
6) Be Accurate: Remember your geometry and visualize differences using area. When trying to convey the scale of your data, many graphics use different sized shapes or images to show amounts relative to each other. The reader’s eye sees the total area of the image as indicative of scale, not just the height of the image.
For example, if you’re using circles to show one number is 3 times larger than another, the area of the circle must be in proportion to the values being represented. If you make the mistake of making the diameter of the circle 3 times larger, the area is actually 9 times larger.
The infographic below breaks down the number of FedEx trucks using the area of the circles in a mind map style image. This could have been a simple bar chart, but it’s much more visually appealing as a bubble mind map.
NOTE: One common exception to this is a standard bar chart. No matter how wide the bars are, the height is the only dimension that conveys meaning.
7) Be Attractive: Include visuals: Illustrations and photos included in the infographic make a big difference. Even though this example is a bar chart, the inclusion of the company logos make it quicker and easier for the reader to understand.
8) Be Varied: Find a good visual style that’s right for the data you’re trying to share. If your data is about countries, plot it on a world map not a bar chart that lists countries. Also, don’t be afraid to mix visualization styles together in one infographic.
This example infographic by Emily Schwartzman about the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti won a design contest from GOOD Magazine, and mixes map data with a stacked bar and colored boxes for percentages. This is also a great example of viewing size. You can see and understand the visuals, but the actual numbers are available if you view the high-resolution version.
9) Be Gracious: Work on the assumption that your infographic may be viewed or shared without the article you originally designed it for. Make sure that the final graphic includes the following pieces:
- Source data, so anyone can check your facts
- Designer’s name, always give credit to the artist/illustrator/programmer/designer
- Original image/article address, so anyone who sees the image can find your original article
10) Be Creative: Use whatever tools you have available to create your infographic. Of course, the tools you use will depend on what you are trying to visualize. Many infographics can be created using simple applications like a vector drawing program (like OmniGraffle or Microsoft Visio), a charting program (like Microsoft Office or Apple iWork) or an image editing program (like Adobe Photoshop).
Here are some visual tools available on the Internet:
Steve and the infographic team from WeatherSealed.com bring us this great infographic that visualizes the historical U.S. income tax brackets.
Yes, in the 1950’s and 1960’s the top tier tax bracket was a staggering 90%!
To illustrate, Weather Sealed’s infographic team charted the historical U.S. income tax brackets for singles, adjusted for inflation, from 1910 to present. The colors indicate the marginal tax rate: black for low, red in the middle, and yellow for high. The horizontal axis is the tax year, and the vertical represents taxable income, log-scale, normalized to 2010 dollars with the Bureau Of Labor Statistics’ monthly CPI-U figures. The bracket data comes from The Tax Foundation and the IRS, and the effects of Social Security, capital gains, AMT, and other tax varieties are not included.
Michael Chu has been running the CookingForEngineers.com site for 6 years now, and he developed this infographic recipe table using HTML tables. His recipe table is essentially a timeline of making that particular recipe, but also lists every ingredient, ingredient amounts, recipe instructions and the points in time they are added to the dish. All in one, compact visual image. Outstanding!
Michael also demonstrates each step of the recipes with pictures so you know what it should look like when you attempt the recipe.
Michael was also nice enough to answer a few interview questions I sent him:
Cool Infographics: What software applications do you use for the recipe graphics?
Michael: I use a text editor and write the HTML for the recipe tables by hand. For the graphics used on my business cards and T-shirts and other merchandise, I copy and paste the browser rendered table into excel for some slight tweaking. Then I copy and paste into Adobe Illustrator for final adjustments.
Cool Infographics: What was your inspiration behind developing the recipe graphic?
Michael: I developed it on my own based on a shorthand notation that used for years to write down recipes on Post-It notes involving curly braces and actions scrawled on the side.
Cool Infographics: Have there been any recipes that have been particularly difficult to visualize?
Michael: Some recipes, especially ones involving discarding part of the ingredients and reintroducing ingredients at various points in time do not lend themselves to the recipe summary table.
Cool Infographics: What’s your most complicated recipe graphic?
Michael: It’s hard to determine… most recipes don’t come out all that complicated. The real trouble is that sometimes browsers act funny and start sticking in vertical or horizontal lines where they do not belong.
Cool Infographics: I keep calling it a recipe graphic, what do you call that visual style?
Michael: I call them either recipe summary tables or Tabular Recipe Notation (TRN).
Cool Infographics: Have you seen anyone else start to use that type of visual graphic for recipes?
Michael: After I started using it, I have had a few people email asking permission to use the format for their own recipe books, etc.
Cool Infographics: How long have you been running Cooking for Engineers, and have you been using that recipe graphic the whole time?
Michael: Cooking For Engineers has been up and running since June 2004 and we’ve been using the table from day one. Incidentally, the first recipe posted is this one:
Check out all of Michaels’ recipes at CookingForEngineers.com
Jon Bruner from Forbes.com has designed and posted an interactive timeline/map of the major investments China has made all over the world in the last five years.
When you first see the map, it’s an animated timeline that highlights which countries China invested in each month since March 2005. The animation completes when it reaches December 2009, and then you can select a particular year by clicking on the total investment bars across the bottom or see the details behind any particular investment by mousing over one of the bubbles. The bubble sizes represent the size of the investments.
Since 2005 Chinese firms and arms of the Chinese government have invested hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign companies and raw materials. Each dot on this map tracks one of those investments, with larger dots representing larger investments. Explore the map by rolling over and clicking on the dots and timeline.
Thanks Jon for the link!
“Follow the Money” is a video summarizing the results from the project by Northwestern University grad students Daniel Grady and Christian Thiemann. Using data from the website Where’s George?, they have been able to track the movement of U.S. paper currency. What can you learn from this? That there are natural borders within the U.S. that don’t necessarily follow state borders, and it can also be used to predict the spread of disease because it maps movement of people within the U.S.
From Maria Popova on BrainPickings.org: This may sound like dry statistical uninterestingness, but the video visualization of the results is rather eye-opening, revealing how money — not state borders, not political maps, not ethnic clusters — is the real cartographer drawing our cultural geography. The project was a winner at the 2009 Visualization Challenge sponsored by the National Science Foundation and AAA.
From Manuel Lima on VisualComplexity.com: Some places, such as Los Angeles, California, have many bills passing through it from across the nation, while others, such as Anderson County in Tennessee - Grady’s home - have bills circulating mainly within a more local neighborhood. Shown here are images from the video. The data from the Where’s George? project is in fact so pertinent that is also being used by researchers to predict the spread of flu across the United States.
You can see the Northwest project site, which has a much more adademic title “Community Structure in Multi-Scale Transportation Networks”.