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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.

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Entries in government (20)

Thursday
Aug212014

Missing Money

Missing Money Infographic

It is no secret that the U.S. is deep in debt. But something you might not know is how much money the U.S. can’t find. The Missing Money infographic from Masters in Accounting covers multiple instances where huge amounts of money are unaccounted for.

With a national debt approaching $17 trillion, Uncle Sam is tightening his belt and looking under the cushions for extra change. But a closer look at his pocket book reveals just how little he knows about where your money is going. Below are a few examples that will make you think twice about Uncle Sam’s accounting skills.

This infographic shares some bold accusations, all meant to be shocking to the readers.  The sources are clearly cited in the footer, but in this case I would recommend including each source along with the claim in the infographic.  The publisher isn’t making any of these claims themselves, just sharing the claims from others, and that should be made clearer to the audience.  It would also be easier for the audience to follow the source link, and learn more about any particualr claim.

The first chart showing the annual increase in the U.S. Debt caused by the budget deficit should show the deficit amount at the bottom of each column instead of the top.  That would visually show that the deficit is the cause of the growing debt from one year to the next by placing it at the end of the column where the heights are different.

Thanks to Merrill for sending in the link!

Thursday
Jun052014

Legislative Explorer: Watch Government In Action

Legislative Explorer: Watch Government In Action

Legislative Explorer is an interactive, animated data visualization that visualizes the process of bills submitted by houses of Congress; the Senate on the left and the House of Representatives on the right.  Designed by Researchers at the University of Washington’s Center for American Politics and Public Policy, it’s a fascinating visualization that is mesmerizing to watch.

A deluge of data is challenging scientific researchers across disciplines to develop new techniques for detecting patterns in large and complex datasets. This general area of research is known as data-driven discovery, or ‘D3.’ Visualizations are a particularly important area of innovation because they help researchers to investigate complex processes at a more holistic level. The goal of Legislative Explorer is to leverage the same benefits of data-driven visualizations to advance understanding of government.

A more in-depth discussion of Legislative Explorer with multiple animations and videos is available at the Center for American Politics and Public Policy.

Anyone can use Legislative Explorer to observe large scale patterns and trends in congressional lawmaking without advanced methodological training. In addition, anyone can dive deeper into the data to further explore a pattern they’ve detected, to learn about the activities of an individual lawmaker, or to follow the progress of a specific bill. Start Exploring!

I selected the 99th Congress (1985-1986) for the screenshots, and you can see the party breakdown of both houses of Congress by their color.  Each icon represents a specific member of Congress which you can identify by hovering your mouse over the icon.  The animation will show a visual spray of bills introduced by members in both houses of Congress as party-color-coded dots that move into committees and through the steps to becoming a law.

Legislative Explorer: Watch Government In Action Zoom 

There are a number of user-definable filters to help narrow down the visualization to a specific party, only one committee, or even just to watching a single bill move through the proces.

Here’s a quick video tutorial:

Found on FlowingData

Tuesday
Dec032013

Understanding Healthcare.gov’s Rocky Rollout 

Understanding Healthcare.gov’s Rocky Rollout infographic

Understanding Healthcare.gov’s Rocky Rollout infographic from SEER by Galorath is a very tall infographic design that does a thorough job of examining the Healthcare.gov site rollout.

Galorath Inc. (the SEER Cost, Schedule, Risk Model Developers) watched the healthcare.gov rollout difficulties, the outcries and finger pointing and decided to take a more analytical look. While it is easy to throw stones at stakeholders, this was a huge IT project and there were bound to be challenges. Could it have gone better? Sure. Were there adequate resources? Seems so. Should testing and quality assurance been more rigorous? Yes, but there didn’t appear to be adequate time. Were the requirements firmed up in advance? That could have been a significant contributor.

Although longer than I usually like for infographic designs, this one tackles a fairly complicated topic and breaks it down nicely.  The use of icons and minimal text make this design easy for readers to skim through, but read the details they are interested in.

Also available as a large, high-resolution PDF for download.

Thanks to Shell for sending in the link!

Thursday
Oct172013

What is the Debt Ceiling?

What is the Debt Ceiling infographic

What is the Debt Ceiling? from WorldSolo Index does a good job of using the combination of charts and text to make a complex issue more understandable to the readers.

The US Debt Ceiling is explained. The US is expected to reach its borrowing limit by Oct 17, 2013 if the borrowing limit is not raised. This infographic breaks down the debt ceiling in detail.

Good design that focuses on telling one story really well.

Found on Visually

Monday
Jul222013

What the Health? Understanding Obamacare's 11 Year Health Plan

What the Health? Understanding Obamacare's 11 Year Health Plan infographic

Interested in the new health plan but have no idea what it means? What the Health? Understanding Obamacare’s 11 Year Health Plan infographic from Clarity Way breaks down each year of the 11-year health care plan of Obamacare. 

If the re-election of Barack Obama as America’s 44th President of the United States means anything, it is that American citizens can expect a little more consistency within their legislation. Among the most notable acts of legislation promised by Obama during both of his campaigns for the Presidency was the concern over America’s health care system.

When our 44th President first earned his chair in leading the nation, he immediately took initiative to put into action a new proposal for health care reform called the Affordable Care Act. And now that he has regained his position, we can count on seeing this initiative furthered in the next 4 years!

But among this 11 year plan was a ton of confusing political jargon, making it easy for Americans to misinterpret how the Act would impact themselves and their nation. So as a duty to our followers and role in the promotion of health, we wanted to create a little bit easier of an explanation of the Affordable Care Act!

This health reform infographic breaks down the Affordable Care Act in an effort to explain how it will affect each and every citizen, from small businesses to large ones, college students to parents, and senior citizens to the young! It’s important that you know about the Affordable Care Act and understand that if we had maintained our status-quo, over 14,000 Americans would lose their health insurance daily!

I think there’s too much text in this design, but it does walk the reader through each year, step by step.  The statistics should have been visualized.  Big fonts are NOT data visualizations, and I see this done by designers all the time.  Big fonts don’t provide any context, and don’t make the numbers any easier for the audience to understand.

Thanks to Adrienne for sending in the link!

Monday
May202013

The Obama Energy Agenda: Gas Prices 2013

The Obama Energy Agenda: Gas Prices 2013 infographic

The White House has released a new infographic in April 2013, The Obama Energy Agenda, Gas Prices.  We have seen the White release a number of infographics as a communication tool, and they have consistently been getting better.

Gas Prices

Explore the infographic to learn about President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy.

The prior Energy Agenda infographic I reviewed was in April of 2011, and it was a rough, early attempt at an infographic design for online publication.  This design is significantly better, and has a number of good points to highlight that all designers can learn from.

First, the data visualizations are well done with the chart axes clearly labeld and units of measure clearly shown.  The color scheme is simple and easy to understand, but some of the small, gray text is hard to read on the white background.

Second, the big issue with the prior designs was the lack of sources for the data.  This design does a good job of citing the source of data for each visualization (chart).  For an administration that is attempting to increase transparency, the sources are still very vague.  I would like to see URL links to the actual reports or data sets referenced to make it easy for readers to check out the data on their own.  Instead, most of the sources are listed as just “EIA” which is the U.S. Energy Information Administration.  Certainly a step in the right direction, but could have much done better.

Third, there isn’t an obvious, clear Key Message.  Most readers only look at an infographic for less than 5 seconds, and it’s the designer’s responsibility to communicate the key message in that short time.  The rest of the information should tell a good story, and support the Key Message, but isn’t required reading.  There’s a lot of data shown in this design.  Probably too much data.  It’s hard for readers to understand the flow of information because there is both top-to-bottom sequence of sections and side-by-side charts.

The area chart in the center of the design draws the reader’s attention because it is so large in relation to the rest of the charts.  This visually implies that it is the most important data in the whole design, but I’m not sure that was the intent.

After reading through the whole design, I believe that the Key Message is “The Obama Administration has supported increased domestic drilling for oil, but that hasn’t lowered gas prices at the pump.  We need to do more.”  An infographic design should make this message very clear and easy to understand without having to read through the entire design.

What do you think?

Tuesday
Feb052013

How Texas Laws Are Made

How Texas Laws Are Made infographic

Texas Co-Op Power brings us the How Texas Laws Are Made infographic outlining the process bills go through in the state legislature to become the law of the land.  Also available as a PDF for download here.

The 83rd session of the Texas Legislature—150 representatives and 31 senators—is under way. What transpires over the 140-day session that began January 8 may seem incomprehensibly complex to the average citizen. So, in the interest of keeping our co-op members informed and involved, we offer this compact guide to how a bill moves through the legislative process and reasons why communication with your legislators matters.

Designed by Mike Wirth Art with Suzanne Cooper-Guasco, Ph.D., this infographic uses a game-board design style to online all of the steps along the path.  The color-coding to differentiate the activities between the House, the Senate and the Governor is clear and easy to understand.

Thursday
Dec202012

Fire Code Regulations for Live Christmas Trees in Schools

Fire Code Regulations for Live Christmas Trees in Schools infographic

Fire Code Regulations for Live Christmas Trees in Schools is an informational infographic from the team at Balsam Hill, an online retailer for artificial Christmas trees.  This design is meant to help school officials and purchasing agents all over the country, and not really intended for the general public online.

Setting up a real Christmas tree in a school requires detailed knowledge of a state’s Christmas tree fire code. School fire code regulations for real Christmas trees vary by city and state, and can be overwhelming to puzzle out due to a confusing and sometimes conflicting set of rules. The Balsam Hill Christmas Tree Company has compiled each state’s school fire code regulations for live trees into an infographic for schools and school districts to reference. Look through the infographic to help you decide whether or not an artificial Christmas tree may be a more practical alternative for your school this holiday season.

From a marketing perspective, this design succeeds tremendously.  The overall message is clear: “Regulations around live Christmas trees in schools are complicated.  An artificial tree would be much easier.”  Balsam Hill put together a ton of research (look at the number of sources!), and even though they were able to gather the state level regulations, many cities, counties and individual school districts have their own regulations that may be contradictory.  A number of major cities with different regulations than their state are highlighted, but that list is incomplete.  It only shows a few cities that have different regulations to let the reader know that state level fire codes aren’t the only regulations that schools have to follow.

The design does a good job of clarifying very complicated information, but that can only go so far.  The regulations are actually very complex, so this is still a very long design to thoroughly visualize the data.  Great job using visual design to help readers understand a very complex issue!

You can see additional designs that also cover the regulations for Hotels and Churches.

Monday
Nov192012

The Difference Between the United Kingdom, Great Britain, and England

The Difference Between the United Kingdom, Great Britain, and England infographic

Do you know the Difference Between the United Kingdom, Great Britain, and England? This infographic from sa-la.jp spells out the differences. It also includes a timeline of major events and some ideas for the future.

The terminology of the UK is quite complicated, so it’s no wonder that people get confused. Are Great Britain, the UK and England the same thing? Is Ireland part of the UK? What’s Wales!? To help explain things, I put together this infographic to define the parts that make up the UK and how it came about. If you still have any questions by the end of it, feel free to ask in the comment section below.

Really good infographic design that uses different visualization methods in the visual explanation.  Maps, icons and a subway map style timeline are easy to understand, and give the reader a basic understanding of the UK.

The sources should be more specific, linking to specific web pages, and there should be a URL to the original infographic landing page in the footer.

Thanks to Tim for sending in the link!

Friday
Oct262012

A Visual History of the US House poster and interview

The Visual History of the United States House of Representatives infographic poster

 

Timeplots has launched a new infographic poster, The Visual History of the United States House of Representatives.  Available for purchase from the Timeplots site for $34.95.

This large-scale (48″x32”) print is like nothing else available on the history of the U.S. House of Representatives. It depicts the progression in political ideology of every House seat from 1789 to 2010.

Other highlights include a timeline of over 100 major legislative enactments and significant developments in U.S. legislative history, and visual summaries of party control and ideological distribution of the House and Senate in each Congress. A Visual History of the U.S. House of Representatives is packed with information and is not intended to be absorbed at a glance, but rather visited and revisited over time. 

The infographic design visualizes the entire history from 1789-2013.  The main, central visualization is the unique highlight of this design.  Each representative is shown by a colored circle that matches their party affiliation, and placed along a vertical scale based on their ideology.  The circles are filled partially transparent, so you get the cumulative color effect when the circles overlap.  This creates a darker color when many representatives within any particular two-year Congress share a similar ideology, and you can see clear areas of concentration.  Fantastic new visualization method, and creates a beautiful image.

The Visual History of the United States House of Representatives infographic poster ideology

The poster also visualizes the balance of power for each two-year Congress by party, and compares it to the Senate and the President from the same time period.  Major milestones, amendments, governance issues, economy, foreign affairs, civil rights and social policy achievements are also plotted within the time periods they took place.

Nathaniel Pearlman, Founder and President of Timeplots, agreed to answer a few behind-the-scenes questions about designing the poster.

Cool Infographics: What software applications were used to help analyze the data and create the design?

Nathaniel Pearlman: So far we have programmed our information graphic prints in the R language and done the final design pass in Illustrator. I’m interested in hearing about other platforms to use for complex data and layout — especially other software applications that would allow us to create interactive and print versions from the same code base.

Cool Infographics: What’s the most interesting thing you learned from the data?

Nathaniel Pearlman: As with some of our other posters, I like the big picture: for me, the visual history of the U.S. house print shows the sweep of U.S. history — a marked contrast with the more journalistic, and immediate, take on the political and economic state of the nation that we are used to seeing in the news. You can clearly see the ebb and flow over time of ideological overlap between the parties – and how they are at such loggerheads now.

Cool Infographics: What was the hardest part behind designing the House poster?

Nathaniel Pearlman: For the House poster, it took us a while to come up with a compelling central graphic. We were looking for something visually arresting from a distance, but that captured the key patterns in the data.  I think we found that.  

Cool Infographics: What should we expect in the future from Timeplots?

Nathaniel Pearlman:  We have recently launched Graphicacy, a design group that helps other tell their own stories with print or interactive information graphics, especially involving large or complex data sets. For Timeplots, we are currently working on a history of U.S. State boundaries and a visual history of baseball. I am excited about both of them. I would also love to hear from your audience what they would like to see, and we are always looking for collaborators, if someone would like to work with us on a project that they care about. We’re open to new ideas!

Cool Infographics: Who is your primary audience for the posters?  Schools, businesses, political offices, individuals, etc.?

Nathaniel Pearlman: Our primary audience is those with true interest in the subject matter.  Our work is explanatory or educational art for smart people – and just about everyone has areas of intense interest, whether it is sports, entertainment, food, politics or finance.  Timeplots has done a lot with American politics so far, but we intend to move now into other areas as well.