About

Randy Krum infographic designerRandy Krum

President of InfoNewt.
Data Visualization, Infographic Design, Visual Thinking, Product Development and Marketing professional fascinated by good infographics.  Always looking for better ways to get the point across.

Infographic Design

Looking for help creating your own infographics?  Randy’s infographic and data visualziation design company:

InfoNewt Infographic Design

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Entries in circles (6)

Friday
Aug292014

False Visualizations: Sizing Circles in Infographics

Accuracy is the most important aspect of an infographic design!

Last week, the article The Truth about the Ice Bucket Challenge by Julia Belluz on Vox Media included the infographic, Where We Donate vs. Diseases That Kill Us, that used proportionally sized circles as its data visualization. The problem with this design is that the circle sizes don’t match the values shown. This is a false visualization and significantly over exaggerates the smaller amounts of money contributed to each charity and the deaths attributed to each cause.

This causes problems because readers often just look at the visuals without reading the actual numbers. They start with the assumption that a visualization accurately represents the data. The Vox Media story and infographic already have over 12,000 shares on Facebook, and this is a great case study for designers to understand how important it is to visualize data accurately.

As readers, we see the area of two-dimensional shapes on the page to represent the different values, but design software only allows width and height adjustments to size shapes. Designers make the mistake of adjusting the diameter of circles to match the data instead of the area, which incorrectly sizes the circles dramatically. It takes some geometry calculations in a spreadsheet to find the areas and then calculate the appropriate diameters for each circle. To demonstrate, I created this corrected version of the infographic.

False Visualizations: Sizing Circles in Infographics Revised

My Google Docs spreadsheet of the correct circle area and diameter calculations is available here.

Assuming this was a design mistake, and there was no intent to deceive the audience, this is a common mistake that many designers make.  So many designers, that I included an entire section on this topic in the Cool Infographics book to help designers understand how to size the area of circles.

I made one other improvement to the corrected design above by removing the color legend and listing the charities and causes of death right next to the appropriate circles. This makes the whole visualization easier for the audience to read by eliminating the need to look back-and-forth from the circles to the color legend to figure out what each circle represents.  Placing the text next to each circle keeps the information in the reader’s field of view which minimizes eye movement.

Sticking with the circles data visualization style, I wanted to take the design a little bit further. I would recommend one of two alternate improvements.  First, adding colored connecting lines is one way to make it easier for the audience to find the related circles in the columns sorted in descending order.

False Visualizations: Sizing Circles in Infographics Revised Lines

A second alternative would be to sort the lists to line up the related circles.  This makes it much easier for the audience to see the direct comparisons between charitable contributions and death rates related to the same cause.

False Visualizations: Sizing Circles in Infographics Revised Descending Sort

I’m passing over any discussion about whether using proportionally sized circles (a bubble chart) is the best visualization method for this data. If a designer makes the choice to use sized shapes, my point is that the data visualizations in the infographic must match the numbers using area.  David Mendoza published a good analysis worth reading and designed an alternative way to visualize the data in his article, This Bubble Chart Is Killing Me.

How else would you improve this design?

NOTE: I was able to contact the designer who created the infographic at Vox Media, and he had already realized his error after the infographic had been published. As I had guessed, he had mistakenly adjusted the diameter of the circles instead of the area. He told me that he’s working on updating the official infographic design in the article, but it hasn’t been published on the Vox Media site yet.


 

Monday
Dec022013

NFL Concussion Watch 2013

NFL Concussion Watch 2013 infographic visualization

PBS Frontline has published the interactive data visualization, NFL Concussion Watch 2013 to summarize all of the player concussions reported in the NFL.

Every week in the National Football League, a player is sidelined by a head injury. In some cases, their symptoms are clearly visible and they exit the game. Other times, less obvious warning signs can mean a missed diagnosis and a return to the field. Either way, research indicates that the long-term health effects of such injuries — including memory loss, depression and even dementia — can pose problems for players long after retirement.

Concussion Watch is an effort to monitor the NFL’s response to the persistent risk of head injury in professional football. To do so, FRONTLINE will track which players are being removed from games after a hit to the head — and which players are not — and keep score of how long they are kept from the field following a concussion.

I really like the idea of this data visualization, but they messed up the visuals.  The circle sizes are supposed to change relative to the values, but they’re not correct.  The designer chose to make the circles for 1-3 too large in order to fit the numbers inside the circles, and 4-5 are larger but the same size.  The choice of aesthetics over accuracy is a common mistake, and creates a false visual to the readers.  It’s the wrong choice.  Accuracy of the data visualization is more important than any other part of the design.

In visualizations, the design is supposed to visually compare values to create context and understand for the readers.  Because some of these circles are larger than their actual values, this creates the impression that most of the football positions have similar risk, instead of clearly highlighting how less risky some positions truly are.

I do like the design layout that places the circles into their correct player positions.  Readers can grasp this layout in a fraction of a second, and understand where the riskiest positions are.

Thanks to Melanie for sending in the link!

Tuesday
Jul302013

What Do 7 Billion People Do?

What Do 7 Billion People Do? infographic

This is a page out of Funders and Founders future book. It is a circle graph of the population of the world. The What Do 7 Billion People Do? infographic simplifies the worlds jobs into broad groups. Entrepreneurs are still the smallest group!

We explain entrepreneurship and startups visually through infographics. Here you can see draft notes from our future book.

Found on Funders and Founders!

Thursday
Aug252011

OUTBREAK: Deadliest Pandemics in History

 

OUTBREAK: Deadliest Pandemics in History is a cool collaboration between GOOD magazine and Column Five Media.

From the Black Death to the measles, rapidly spreading diseases have taken a toll on humanity for centuries. Here’s a look at the biggest and deadliest pandemics ever.

I like the circles for each disease sized to the death toll, and illustrated to look like a virus molecule.  I can’t tell if the extra design elements around the circumference of the circles are part of the circle size or not.  The readers’ eyes see the area of each circle to represent it’s relative death toll compared to the others, but looking at the Measles circle, which radius do you see as the size of the circle?  The solid black line or the outer reaches of the appendages?  I think arguments could be made both ways.

Although I personally don’t like legends, the hexagons to indicate all of the different symptoms of each disease work nicely.  The shape implies scientific information, and the designer spend some time designing icons for each symptom.

This design works very well as an informative piece, and is clear to the reader to understand.  This one will probably have a long online lifespan.

Found on Visual News.

Friday
Apr222011

The Tweet Topic Explorer

 

Jeff Clark at Neoformix has created a cool, interactive tool that visualizes word frequency in a specific Twitter stream called Tweet Topic Explorer.  You can enter anyone’s Twitter ID and it will generate an interactive visual on the fly.  Above is the visualization of my Twitter ID: @rtkrum.  According to Jeff (see note below), this works in most browsers but has trouble with Microsoft Internet Explorer.

Similar to a word cloud, the area of the circles is sized based on the frequency of that word in the Twitter stream.  Words are clustered together and color-coded if they are often found together in the same Tweets.  The actual text of the Tweets is displayed next to the visual, so you can click on any word and it’s highlighted in the text as well.  Clicking on any Twitter names in the text will generate a new visualization for that Twitter user.

 

 

One issue I have is that the font size of each word is adjusted to fit within it’s circle, so longer words are naturally smaller to fit on one line withing the circle.  So even if a long word has a higher frquency (and a larger circle area) it appears smaller to the reader’s eye because the font is so small. 

I have created a new tool to help see which topics a person tweets about most often. It also shows the other twitter users that are mentioned most frequently in their tweets. I call it the Tweet Topic Explorer. I’m using the recently described Word Cluster Diagrams to show the most frequently used words in their tweets and how they are grouped together. This example below is for my own account, @JeffClark, and shows one word cluster containing twitter,data,visualization,list,venn, and streamgraph. Another group has word,cloud,shaped,post etc. It’s a bit hard to see in this small image but there is a cluster about Toronto where I live and mentions of run, marathon, soccer. Also, there are bubbles for some of the people on Twitter I mention the most often: @flowingdata, @eagereyes, @blprnt, @moritz_stefaner, @dougpete.

This application was created with the wonderful tool Processing.js which is the javascript-based extension of the Processing tool I have used in the past. Performance is very good with the Chrome browser, and decent in Firefox and Safari. It will not work in Internet Explorer (except perhaps the new IE 9) and currently crashes on iOS devices.

Anyone out there still reading?  Generate a visualization using your Twitter ID and post a link in the comments!

Outstanding job Jeff!  

Found on FlowingData

Thursday
Apr142011

Eat, Drink and Be Thrifty: #infographic video

New infographic video from Mint.com,  Eat, Drink and Be Thrify uses their data to visualize the statistics behind monthly spending habits.
So how does your spending on food and dining compare to that of your peers? Using aggregate and anonymized data on Food & Dining spending from Mint.com, we created the video above to highlight some of the most interesting trends we found in Mint’s data, from average transaction at a variety of coffee shops, grocery stores and fast food restaurants, to the time of year when Mint users spend the most — or the least — in those categories.