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Data Visualization and Infographic Design

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Monday
Jul112016

PopWaves: Making of the Genealogy of Pop/Rock Music

PopWaves: Making of the Genealogy of Pop/Rock Music

This is one of my favorite designs! PopWaves is a fantastically detailed, hand-drawn poster that visualizes over 60 years (1955-2015) of the evolution of Pop and Rock music. It's a huge poster, measuring in at 89" x 24", over 7ft long! Released in 2015, PopWaves is a massive update to the original Genealogy of Pop/Rock Music design by Reebee Garofalo and printed posters are distributed by HistoryShots. When it was released, I sent Reebee and Larry Gormley (HistoryShots) a number of questions about creating the poster.

60 years of music! 1200 music artists! 75 genres! Two years in the making. PopWaves picks up where the classic Genealogy of Pop/Rock Music left off; it maps the top pop artists of each year since rock ‘n’ roll began by style. Bolded titles and genre boundaries show the flow and interrelationships among styles; artist names and dashed arrows represent moments of peak popularity. 

Meticulously researched, reviewed by experts, and subjectively categorized, this humongous, carefully hand-lettered, 7 foot long beast of a chart will provide you with endless hours of musical memories and arguments with your friends. Perfect for music lovers and owners of large walls everywhere.

 

PopWaves: Making of the Genealogy of Pop/Rock Music close upPopWaves: close up


PopWaves: Making of the Genealogy of Pop/Rock Music ZoomedEven closer!  

Reebee Garofalo with his complete designReebee Garofalo with his complete design

Cool Infographics: What were your thoughts and reasoning behind the new PopWaves poster design?

Reebee Garofalo: The original version of what is now called PopWaves grew from my love of pin striping on cars and my desire to capture the contours and flow of the mid-20th century pop/rock/soul market in graphic form, as part of the research I was doing for Rock 'N' Roll is Here to Pay: The History and Politics of the Music Industry by Steve Chapple and myself. I first got the idea from a rough drawing that Charlie Gillett did on the cover of the 1970 paperback edition of his seminal The Sound of the City. It first appeared as a three-page fold-out called Marketing Trends and Stylistic Patterns in Pop/Rock Music in early printings of the book, which was published in 1977, (and then was reduced to smaller sizes in subsequent printings). This is the version that appears in Ed Tufte’s Visual Explanations.

         

Original chart: Click to see in detail

Reebee Garofalo: In 1979, I was commissioned by NBC Radio to update the chart to 1978, at which point I renamed it The Genealogy of Pop/Rock Music. This is the version that is displayed on the HistoryShots website. In the interim, this graphic has had a long and venerable history of popping up in some very interesting places.


Reebee Garofalo: Although PopWaves is essentially an extension and an update of the Genealogy, the construction of PopWaves not only occasioned the creation of dozens of new genre names, it also necessitated some refinements in the original graphic. The soul categories were further subdivided to include southern soul and funk. Art rock, glam, and southern boogie were added to the rock lexicon.

Larry Gormley and I talked about updating and greatly expanding my original chart for many years. Finally, in 2013, the openness of my schedule and my enthusiasm to tackle such a large project aligned and I started work that spring. I once estimated that the original graphic took me about 100 hours to complete. PopWaves clocked in at around 300 hours. In both instances, I did all the initial design work and the original drawings myself, then brought in artists with calligraphy skills to do the final lettering. Larry spent another few hundred hours on graphic design creating the production-ready version of the chart. 

Reebee's hand-drawn design in progress

Reebee Garofalo: From the beginning I used the year-end pop charts of leading trade magazines like Billboard that Larry and I researched to compile the basic data, and consulted music encyclopedias, the rock press, and, more recently, any number of online databases, as well as a team of experts in the field (academics, radio personalities, music journalists, etc) to help me craft genres names and categorize hard-to-place artists. Still, the results are quite subjective, much more an art than a science. 

It is worth noting that the various inputs that determine the chart position of a given recording have changed over time. What was once a straightforward, if notoriously corrupt, tabulation of record sales and radio play, has become an unruly assemblage of new formats and platforms, and new ways of accessing and sharing music. As a result, it is unclear whether chart position in 2014 is measuring quite the same thing as chart position in 1967.

It is also important to note that the data I am using captures the top of the commercial bubble. These are not necessarily the most interesting or talented artists, or even the most influential musically. They are simply the most broadly popular at a given moment. So there are any number of other interesting graphic representations that could be made. But this is the one I wanted to make. All its contradictions notwithstanding, it attempts to tell the story of US popular music culture, writ large.

 

Cool Infographics: The poster is a large, odd size when compared to standard 24"x36" posters. Why the unusual size and will it cause complications?

Larry Gormley (HistoryShots): From the beginning we realized that in order to do it right, PopWaves needed to be big. We understood that some people may not have the necessary wall space (that’s why we’re going to continue to sell the original chart), however, we know that many people are looking for large-format statement pieces. Also, we’ve been selling over-sized graphics for many years so we feel comfortable with all the marketing and production complexities associated with selling large charts. We’re in the process of working with our framing partner to develop a canvas-wrapped triptych version that is going to be amazing. 

 

Reebee Garofalo: More History of the Chart

As soon as the chart hit the market in Rock ‘n’ Roll is Here to Pay, it started generating buzz in the music community. Early on, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame wanted to use it as a permanent installation. It was actually displayed in the original architect’s model for the Rock Hall that was made by the Burdick Group of San Francisco. The Rock Hall even sent me a contract. But then there was a complete staff turnover, and a more active Board of Directors decided that it would be difficult to decide on an appropriate genealogy for this music. You can bet there was a back story there.

In May 1978, Steve Chapple and I had a piece in Mother Jones magazine on “The Rise and Fall of FM Rock.” It was accompanied by an uninspiring artist rendering of the chart that ran as a graphic over the story. I thought it was a rather lackluster interpretation that did no justice to the original, but there it was, in the pages of Mother Jones.

The following year, NBC Radio commissioned me to update the chart for a marketing campaign they were contemplating, which I did. The woman who contracted me, however, abruptly left her job and her marketing campaign sank without a trace. But this exercise led to the version of the chart that is now available through HistoryShots.

When WGBH-TV, Boston’s PBS television station, was first developing the idea for what became the 10 part series Rock and Roll, I was called in by the Executive Producer as a possible consultant to the project. I think I talked myself out of a potentially lucrative consulting gig when I criticized the original proposal for its overproduction of Britrock and lack of attention to black artists and particularly disco. Still, they were interested in using the chart for their marketing proposal. Since they were going after big time corporate bucks, however, they didn’t want to use the original, which they thought of as . . . I think the word they used was “primitive.” Instead they created a computer generated, high tech version of the chart with circles and arrows and curlicues all over the place. Imagine Keith Haring working in an early draw program. I guess it worked though; their proposal got mega-funding.

The last time that I was brought in as a rock ‘n’ roll consultant to a major project was when Paul Allen was building the Experience Music Project in Seattle. His team of curators was interested in creating a huge sculpture in the middle of the building that depicted the “Roots and Branches” of rock ‘n’ roll — a  sort of three-dimensional version of the rock chart. Having gotten hold of a reproduction of my chart, they pulled me in to help develop the concept. Umpteen staff changes later, they still couldn’t agree on a concept, and the “Roots and Branches” idea was ultimately abandoned in favor of that gigantic guitar sculpture that now ascends dramatically to the second level. While it works well enough as an abstract sculpture, it provides little in the way of useful music history.

If WGBH didn’t like primitive and EMP couldn’t figure out how to incorporate information into its central sculpture, graphic design guru Edward Tufte touted the virtues of the chart on both counts. He decided to use the original 1974 version of the chart in his seminal graphics text Visual Explanations (1997). For those of you who have seen his road show, he uses the chart as an example of an effective design for capturing lots of information in a graphically pleasing way. “Your chart brings my book to a stop,” he once told me, “at least for those of us of a certain age!”

Los Angeles Artist Dave Muller was so taken by the chart that when he was asked to contribute an installation of his own choosing to the 2004 Whitney Biennial, the signature exhibition of New York’s Whitney Museum, he blew up the reproduction in Tufte’s book and made it the centerpiece of a 30 foot wall mural. Muller’s “appropriation” moved the chart into the realm of fine art. Muller has since mounted versions of this installation in Rome, London, Paris, Melbourne, Australia, and elsewhere, all without ever asking my permission. This has outraged many of my friends, who feel I should sue him, especially after he installed it again in 2008 in my backyard at the Institute for Contemporary Art in Boston. There it defined the public wall at the ICA’s entrance for almost all of 2008. I thought about suing, even talked to a lawyer, who assured me we could make big bucks. Ultimately, however, I decided that public access to information was more important than lining my pockets. I wonder if Muller knows how narrowly he dodged a bullet.

I included a copy of the original drawing as a two-page fold-out in the third edition of my book Rockin’ Out: Popular Music in the USA (2005). Also in 2005, I was approached by Marco Ferrari, a journalist working with the Italian magazine Focus, with a proposal “to compile in just one graphic timeline a (very rough) history of popular music, by genres,” using my chart as the basis for their work. The result: “River of Music,” a graphic that extends my original chart in a most engaging way to the year 2000. It appeared as an eight flap, full color, centerfold poster in the June 2005 issue of Focus.

For me, creating this chart was a labor of love that drew equally from my love of popular music (for content) and my attraction to the contours of “pinstriping” on customized 1950s cars (for graphic design). Along the way, I enjoyed the company and able assistance of many friends and acquaintances. I still remember the night that Dianne Dion (then Carasik) spilled Scotch on the original while surveying my placement of artists. When my calligraphy skills were not up to the task, my friend and former college roommate, the late Damon Rarey, stepped in with a major assist in the graphics department. (Damon was an accomplished artist in his own right; check out his legacy at www.rarey.com) For the 1978 update presented here, artist Jean Nicolazzo, my girlfriend at the time, took over Damon’s graphics role. When decisions about artists and categories seemed too complicated to manage, I was fortunate to have Sam Kopper, Allan MacDougall, Beverly Mier, Rory O’Connor, Robert Plattner, and Norm Weiner to talk to.

PopWaves picks up where The Genealogy of Pop Rock Music left off. This update could not have happened without the help of others. I am beholden to my crack team of advisors—Murray Forman, Wayne Marshall, Steve Waksman, and Elijah Wald—for their invaluable assistance in helping me to name styles and position artists. Hats off to Jan Boyd for her awesome calligraphy in the final rendering of artists’ names. And, finally, I am deeply indebted to Larry Gormley (who convinced me to take this on) for his pixel-level interventions and tasteful aesthetic choices in turning PopWaves into an appealing poster. All of the above should get some of the credit for these projects; I’ll take all of the complaints.

Thursday
May052016

Next Generation Interactive Scientific Poster

The Next Generation Scientific Poster project by The Muthesius Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Kiel, Germany takes scientific data visualization and designed a physical, interactive interface for audiences. As a result, they founded The Science Communication Lab as a spin-off from the academy so they could offer this expertise to researchers in the scientific community all over the world.

Check out this video demonstration on YouTube:

From their description:

The classical poster does often not offer enough space for the sheer complexity of the contents – texts, pictures, graphs and tables – used to convey scientific research today which causes inability to communicate contents and statements concisely. The classical poster also lacks an appropriate possibility for continuous updates which are necessary to include newer research results and would do justice to today‘s constant changes of information. 

The interactive poster is a a new method of presenting scientific topics in an attractive way, offering the user an easier access to the contents and a clearly improved possibility of comprehension. The illustrated topics are supposed to function self-explanatory and long-lasting which means that the viewer can decide on the depth and duration of the information process.

The interactive poster can be used for various purposes: For the internal demonstration of the research projects (poster sessions), on expert conferences and conventions in an international context. The newly developed technology -LED displays with a touch frame- can be used in a more reliable and long-lasting way than conventional projection technologies.

Thanks to Pieter Torrez from Scigrades for the link and his interview article with Professor Tom Duscher

Monday
Dec142015

DataViz Gift Guide 2015

Some of the best DataViz themed gifts for the holiday season, with some great deals and discounts as well.

BOOKS

DataViz Gift Guide 2015 Books

 

POSTERS

DataViz Gift Guide 2015 Posters

  • Timeplots.com - 20% OFF all infographic posters, Discount Code “coolinfo”
  • HistoryShots - Check out PopWaves, the updated History of Pop/Rock Music poster!
  • Pop Chart Lab - Running a 12-Days of Christmas sale in December

 

TOOLS

DataViz Gift Guide 2015 Tools

  • Visme.co - Free trial, 40% OFF first payment (monthly or yearly subscription), Discount Code “COOL40”
  • The Noun Project - Free with attribution or $9.99/month unlimited. Creating, Sharing and Celebrating the World’s Visual Language
  • IBM Watson Analytics - Free & Paid editions. Predictive analytics and data visualization. Analyze your data in minutes on your own without downloading software.

 

TRAINING

DataViz Gift Guide 2015 Training

 

CONFERENCES

DataViz Gift Guide 2015 Conferences

What else would you add to your DataViz wish list?

Monday
Jul202015

Beautiful Map Posters of Anywhere

Mapiful custom map posters

Mapiful is a great site that lets us choose the location and customize a beautiful black & white poster of any location in the world based on OpenStreetMap data. You can change the location, the zoom level, the label text, the orientation, and choose from a handful of clean layout styles.

The printed posters are a flat cost of $60 with free shipping worldwide.

Regardless of where you live and what city, country or spot you wish to eternalize - Mapiful takes you there. We bring people's favorite places to their homes. The city you were born, where you fell in love or just a place that makes your heart skip a beat. Search, zoom and tweak. Within days your unique Mapiful print will arrive in the mail.

Found on FlowingData and Visual News

Tuesday
Apr072015

Greek Mythology Family Tree

Greek Mythology Family Tree chart

Keeping track of Greek mythology’s genealogy can cause a headache. But now, Useful Charts has released a new update to the ultimate cheat sheet called the Greek Mythology Family Tree chart poster! The tree starts with Chaos from the Primordial gods, and finishes through the last of the Olympians.

The poster is available for purchase on Amazon for $24.95

Fans of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books will love this poster! Covering all three generations of Greek gods (Primordial, Titans, and Olympians), it displays both the Greek and Roman names for the gods as well as their titles or functions. It is also color-coded to distinguish between sea gods, sky gods, earth gods, underworld gods, personifications, monsters, demigods, and mortals.

This is a great network map design, and way more complicated than your standard family tree. The images help tremendously.

Created by Matt Baker at UsefulCharts.com

For a detailed look at the poster, check out Matt’s video:

Monday
Feb092015

The Massive SciFi Starship Size Comparison Chart

The Final SciFi Starship Spaceship Size Comparison Chart infographic

The massive SciFi Starship Size Comparison Chart is one of my favorite infographic design projects. Designed by Dirk Loechel and shared on DeviantArt, this is a project he has been working on for years. I posted an earlier version of his design in 2013 here which was hugely popular. Dirk’s notes claim that this may be the last update.

The last update

For real this time: This is the final major content update, though if there are issues I’ll still fix them. I also haven’t forgotten I wanted to vectorize the writing. It’s still on the radar. But content-wise, I think that is about all I can put in. 

Also, I added the ISS. For scale. It’s on top, with a yellow frame so it’s relatively easy to find.

Lots of errors fixed, lots of new ships too. Well, off for now, but I’ll be replying in the comments more or less regularily. 

This is probably at least for the forseseeable future the last round of adding ships. I have pretty much all I wanted now (excepting some old scifi, and many Anime series, which tend to not have many usable images). Lots of new content.

And that’s it for now. Enjoy the new-and-improved chart! 

This is one of the visual designs that clearly demonstrates why visuals can be much more effective than text descriptions. Especially when it comes to comparing size and scale. You just don’t comprehend the scope when someone tells you that the Star Wars Executor Class Super Star Destroyer is 19,000 meters long. You have to see it in comparison to something you already know.

The images on DeviantArt are high enough in resolution, that you can download and print it out as a poster yourself to hang on your wall. The full-size poster resolution is 4,268 x 5,690 pixels. Most of the ships are clustered by franchise (Star Wars, Star Trek, Halo, Eve, Warhammer, etc.). As a reality check, the International Space Station (ISS) is included for reference.

Found on Geyser of Awesome, Nerd Approved and Nerdist

Wednesday
Dec172014

An Illustrated Guide To The Galaxy Of Women's Shoes

An Illustrated Guide To The Galaxy Of Women's Shoes infographic

An Illustrated Guide to the Galaxy of Woman’s Shoes is the all knowing cheat sheet to any shoe that a woman could wear. Created by Pop Chart Lab, the color coding around the shoes d distinguishes the categories that each shoe falls under.

Can’t tell the difference between a slingback espadrille wedge and a peep-toe ankle strap platform wedge? The prolific infographic design studio Pop Chart Lab has you covered. The Charted Collection of Contemporary Footwear is a handy, color-coded cheat sheet of the many shoes the modern woman might go sauntering—or, in some cases, teetering—out of the house wearing.

It just boggles my mind.

Found on http://www.fastcodesign.com/

Tuesday
Nov042014

Supermovies: Calendar of Comic Movies

Supermovies: Calendar of Comic Movies infographic

Supermovies is a calendar infographic created by graphic artist Dylan Todd (in collaboration with Comics Alliance).

ComicsAlliance’s own graphics maestro Dylan Todd put together a timeline that reveals what those six years look like, including 29 confirmed release dates between now and the end of 2020, with several dates and titles still to be announced. For anyone who remembers the days when just one Spider-Man movie seemed an impossible dream, it’s an astonishing representation of how comic book superheroes now dominate popular entertainment.

Our timeline makes the assumption that the Warner Bros movies will be released in the order listed in their press release, which seems a safe assumption. We can also assume that some of the “year unknown” movies on the bottom tier, like Thor 3 and Gambit, may eventually be placed in some of the existing slots in the timeline, and that Marvel Studios, Fox, and Sony Columbia will announce further dates in 2019 and 2020.

The above graphic was updated October 28 to reflect the confirmed Marvel Studios Phase 3 releases

Love it. The design minimizes text and gives you only the most basic information to keep it simple. Icon-Date-Title-Comic Publisher.

I don’t like the years wrapping around the edge at all. This would be much easier to understand if each year were shown as its own row.

Knowing that this will update over time, the URL to infographic landing page where updates will be posted (not the Comics Alliance front page) would be immensely helpful to readers. The text URL included in the footer of the infographic image would ensure that readers can find the current, full-size verison.

Found on GeekTyrant!

Monday
Nov032014

Filmography Print Series Posters

 Filmography Print Series Posters infographics

The Filmography Print Series was created by Cathryn and are all available for purchase at Calm The Ham. The Filmography of Guns (above), the Filmography of Cars, and the Filmography of Aircraft show a collection of popular icons from film and TV shows. Also available are book versions of the prints.

My name is Cathryn, and I’ve created the Filmography print series. Through the illustration of iconic items from film and television I wanted to create artwork for fans of popular culture, like myself. 

 

Each gun was sketched by hand with meticulous attention to every detail. It was then converted to a digital illustration. By drawing each gun at a large size (approx 12” x 18”) the detail of the weapon remains crisp when reduced in scale on the print.


The Filmography of Cars which illustrates popular cars from TV and film.

 

The Filmography of Aircraft, which illustrates 100 years of aviation in film.

 

Congratulation to Cathryn for her most recent project being funded on Kickstarter!

Friday
Oct032014

The Graphic Continuum

The Graphic Continuum data visualization poster

The Graphic Continuum is a new poster of data visualization styles and methods from Job Schwabish and Severino Ribecca. Available as a printed poster for $25 on Mimeo.

The Graphics Continuum shows several ways that data can be illustrated individually or combined to show relationships. Use of various shapes, chart types, and colors can help identify patterns, tell stories, and reveal relationships between sets and types of data. Bar charts, or histograms, for examples, can illustrate a distribution of data over time, but they also can show categorical or geographic differences. Scatterplots can illustrate data from a single instance or for a period, but they also can be used to identify a distribution around a mean.

This set of charts does not constitute an exhaustive list, nor do the connections represent every possible pathway for linking data and ideas. Instead, the Graphic Continuum identifies some presentation methods, and it illustrates some of the connections that can bind different representations together. The six groups do not define all possibilities: Many other useful overlapping data types and visualization techniques are possible.

This chart can guide graphic choices, but your imagination can lead the way to other effective ways to present data.

The Graphic Continuum data visualization poster closeup 1

I’ve seen a few other attempts to gather and categorize data visualization techniques, and I really like this poster. One of the biggest challenges for people is to break out of the Big Three chart styles: bar charts, line charts, and pie charts. It doesn’t matter if they’re designing an infographic or a PowerPoint presentation, I am often asked to help clients find new ways to visualize their data.

The Graphic Continuum data visualization poster closeup 3

Jon Schwabish has posted a great article on Visual.ly about the development process and includes images of some other arrangements they attempted during the design process.