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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.

Infographic Design

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

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Entries in presidential (39)

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

Friday
Jul262013

Death & Taxes 2014 Poster and Interview

Death & Taxes 2014 poster infographic

The new 2014 Death & Taxes poster has been released, and it is fantastic!  Visualizing the President’s proposed budget for next year, each department and major expense item is represented with proportionally sized circles so the viewer can understand how big they are in comparison to the rest of the budget.

You can purchase the 24” x 36” printed poster for $24.95.

Since 2004, Death and Taxes has been depicting the federal budget and has grown into a powerhouse of information.

For the FY2014 budget, this poster contains over 500 departments, agencies, programs and just about everything else the government can spend money on. It is still the single most open and accessible record of government spending ever created. All in six square feet. 

Previously, the Death & Taxes series has been a project of Jess Bachman (ByJess.net), but this year the series has been taken over by the great team at Timeplots.  Owner Nathaniel Pearlman graciously spent some time answering some of my questions:

Cool Infographics: What’s new in the 2014 design of Death & Taxes?

Nathaniel Pearlman: Timeplots is continuing the Death & Taxes poster franchise, taking it over from its creator, Jess Bachman. We agreed to do this before the scheduled release of the FY2014 budget. To produce the poster efficiently and meet the expectations of an audience already familiar with its look and feel, we minimized big changes and largely stayed with Jess’s design aesthetic. We kept the location of departments, labeled and colored expenditure numbers in the same format; and, the Office of Governmental Ethics is still the smallest circle plotted on the poster. We did, however, make some subtle design changes.

In the bottom-right corner we converted pie charts to a bar chart. We also changed the “For Comparison” section bubble charts to horizontal bar charts. Bars also serve as a visual clue that the information here is different and you see immediately that they differ from the bubbles depicting the discretionary budget in the main area of the poster. We also unified the presentation style throughout the poster. We also omitted the “How much does it cost you” section. 

Cool Infographics: The Death & Taxes poster design is now being made by the team at Timeplots, what are the major differences from the prior posters that were designed by Jess Bachman?   

Nathaniel Pearlman: Timeplots has a four year history of visualizing complex data with compelling design. We have diverse skills and resources and may introduce changes in future posters like dark type against a lighter background for ease of reading; advancing visual unity either by replacing the photos with icons, or by making all color photographs more duotone, or monochromatic; and finally, crafting the type in the header section so that it has more personality. We are also thinking about how to improve the substance of the poster. We would love to hear feedback or suggestions for improvement from your readers.

Cool Infographics: When did the 2014 data become available, and how long did it take you design the poster?

Nathaniel Pearlman: The data was released on April 11, 2013. To prepare, we wrote some data queries and scripts based on the 2013 data about one week before the release. Once we got the 2014 data, we just ran the 2013 scripts. It took about two days to get all of the circles in place on the poster. The design and crafting took longer. The poster went out for review to experts about a month after the we got the data. Of course we were working on many other projects in between as well.

Cool Infographics: What software applications were used for the Death & Taxes poster design?

Nathaniel Pearlman: Scripting and plotting were done in R—an open source statistical application that we have used for other Timeplots posters. The design completed in Adobe Illustrator. Jess created the previous Death and Taxes with Excel and Photoshop, so there was no code or design template we could borrow or reuse. Our programming and design process was new to Death & Taxes, but we decided to go this route because this process would present data more accurately and make future updating much easier.

Cool Infographics: What’s the most interesting thing you learned from the 2014 data?

Nathaniel Pearlman: We guess it shouldn’t be a surprise, but data shows how trivial in the context of the whole budget are some of the biggest political tangles. Things like the National Endowment for the Humanities or the Corporation for Public Broadcasting are very small by comparison to big ticket items.  The nice thing about the poster is that each viewer will be able to reach their own conclusions, based on the area of they wish to investigate or focus upon. Each department, each item, has its own story. 

Cool Infographics: Where do you have them printed, what are the printing specs and why?

Nathaniel Pearlman: The 2014 poster is on a 36” by 24” sized, 80 lb. cover paper. We use a local printer for offset printing and through a process of several proofs we have more control over the colors and the final look and feel of the print. The 2014 poster is slightly lighter than the 2012 one. The lighter paper can roll more easily into tubes without getting creases.

Cool Infographics: Social media has always been a big part of marketing the Death & Taxes poster.  What are your plans to promote the 2014 poster?

Nathaniel Pearlman: Social media is important to us. We have been receiving supportive comments and thoughtful suggestions through a number of channels. Death & Taxes has its own Facebook channel: (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Death-and-Taxes/373639641532). You can also follow Timeplots on Twitter (@timeplots) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/timeplots) to receive notice of latest news. Keep your eyes open to these places.

Graphicacy, (the consulting arm of Timeplots) is also working on an interactive version using the same budget data to pair with the poster. That interactive, presenting the same information, will enable interested viewers to explore the federal budget online.

The poster now sells at Timeplots and Amazon.  

Cool Infographics: Prior versions have been available online in a zooming viewer.  Is the 2014 version also available in this format?  What zooming tool is being used?

Nathaniel Pearlman: Yes, you are able to zoom on a watermarked version of the 2014 poster on our Timeplots site. The zoom tool is the default for our shopping content management system, and it allows for crystal-clear views of the information, watermarks aside. While you will have a good sense for the design and presentation of the poster by viewing it online and zooming-in on its details, we believe the print poster will surprise you with its vibrant colors on smooth paper, sharp type, and scale.

 You can also check out Jess Bachman’s thoughts about the new version in his blog post on Visual.ly

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
Apr302013

White House will be Posting More Infographics

White House Infographics

The White House has just started posting on Tumblr, and released the White House on Tumblr infographic you see above to kickoff the blog.  I’m pleased to see infographics as a large section of the content they are planning, but also a little bit worried.

We see some great things here at the White House every day, and sharing that stuff with you is one of the best parts of our jobs. That’s why we’re launching a Tumblr. We’ll post things like the best quotes from President Obama, or video of young scientists visiting the White House for the science fair, or photos of adorable moments with Bo. We’ve got some wonky charts, too. Because to us, those are actually kind of exciting.

They’re not kidding about the “Wonky charts!”  I look at this design and think “Huh?”  The infographic appears to be a stylized form of a coxcomb chart or rose diagram, but not really.  It’s definitely an aesthetic design all about style without substance.  The design is just supposed to imply the different types (and maybe the amounts) of content they intend to publish.  There isn’t any real data or numbers behind the chart, and the hand-drawn aspect reinforces that this is just suggestive of what we should expect to see in the future.  

Visually, I guess it also suggests that the content might cover multiple categories.  So posts about the FLOTUS (First Lady of the United States) might include photos, behind-the-scenes information and posts about Bo, the First Dog.

No real chart would have overlapping pie slices.  Slices of a true Rose Diagram (credited to Florence Nightingale) would have equal angles that add up to 360° or 100%, and with varying radii, the area of each slice would represent the value of each section.

The staff at the White House has posted infographics on the official White House blog before (which I critiqued here and here).  I love that this helps raise the awareness and credibility of infographics aas a whole!

Wednesday
Feb202013

NPR Chart Check from the Enhanced State of the Union (SOTU)

On February 12, 2013, President Obama gave his annual State of the Union speech, but this year it was “enhanced” with charts, data visualizations and additional information in a sidebar of the display (full video above).  The team at NPR (@nprapps) published a great review a few days later called Chart Check: Did Obama’s Graphics ‘Enhance’ His Big Speech?  They also included opinions from a couple of the best data visualization experts Stephen Few (PerceptualEdge.com) and Nathan Yau (FlowingData.com)

Chart Check from the Enhanced State of the Union (SOTU)

I will say that I think the use of the charts was very successful and does make the President’s speech more effective.  By their very nature, the charts imply that the President has data behind his message, and that can be a very persuasive, compelling tactic.  You’ll also notice the wide array of chart styles so they are each memorable for different topics in the speech.  We didn’t get 27 bar charts, because the audience wouldn’t have been able to tell them apart after the speech.  We got different data visualizations for different types of data.  Stacked bars, line charts, area charts and grids colored icons.

The key frame from the video (above) is what first caught my eye.  This is the still image shown before you start playing the video.   I was instantly concerned about all of the charts after seeing this one about Deficit Reduction.  It may be because I work with data visualizations every day, but I could see instantly that the chart was wrong.  How can the $500 Billion part of the stacked bar be larger than the $600 Billion part?  That can’t be right!  Seriously, I look at this stuff all the time, and this jumps out at me in a big way.  Welcome to my life.

Here’s the full chart:

One of the biggest risks with data visualizations and infographics is what I call the Risk of Negative Impression.  The idea is that while good visuals can quickly leave a good impression with your audience, if your visualizations are incorrect or flawed, you can leave a bad impression just as quickly and effectively.  The audience thinks, “if they messed up this chart, why should I trust anything else they have to say?”  Then they feel like they have to carefully scrutinize every chart, and you have lost all credibility with your audience.

The NPR piece does a great job of breaking down 14 of the 27 charts from the speech, and even created some corrected charts to show a more realistic real visualization of the data.  I highly recommend you read the whole article on the NPR site.

I’ll mention one more example.  By visualizing data, the designer adds context and bias to the information.  The best designers try to minimize the bias, but even the choices about what data to include in the visualization help frame the audience’s understanding.  One common way to skew perception of the data is to change the scale of one or both of the axes.  A number of slides from the speech don’t start at zero, so the chart exaggerates the changes.  This is a common practice when charting stock values so the audience can see the small changes, but they often make the changes feel much bigger than they actually are.  That was the intent with this chart that only shows the range of values from 400,000 to 550,000.

Stephen Few redesigned this corrected chart for the NPR piece, and I think he nailed it.  By expanding the y-axis to start at 0, he puts the changes over time into a different perspective for the audience.

The White House has published all of the 107 slides as a scribd.com presentation:

 

White House State of the Union 2013 Enhanced Graphics by The White House

Found on the White House blog

Friday
Nov022012

How to Travel Like a President

How to Travel like a President infographic

It is almost election time! Hard to imagine how the presidential candidates were able to accomplish visiting so many cities in the amount of time they did! Flipkey crunched some numbers and put together their How to Travel Like a President infographic. They show the candidate’s mode of travel, what they ate and where they stayed. If you want to see the country, I’d recommend traveling with the president! Just make sure they are the ones to flip the bill. 

With less than a month to go before America heads to the polls, we keep thinking about the candidates hitting the road. After all, for those of us here at FlipKey, visiting over 25 towns across the country in a month sounds like a dream job – but who can afford it? Over the past four months, President Obama’s campaign travel expenses have totaled a cool $3 million, which may have factored into his decision to skip this year’s summer vacation. Meanwhile, challenger Mitt Romney has shown that the first step to becoming president is traveling like one: the former governor has poured close to $10 million into travel for himself and his staff. Looking at these price tags, we decided to go to work and find out exactly what it takes to travel like a president…

I like the different approach to data surrounding the election campaigns.  The data is a little bit skewed because of the date range represented.  The numbers for Obama only show 2 days on the road, so hotel and food costs are very small.

Good list of sources, but missing a copyright and a URL link back to the infographic landing page on the FlipKey site.

Thanks to Claire for sending in the link!

Thursday
Oct112012

Obamacare: The Price of Socialized Medicine

Obamacare: The Price of Socialized Medicine infographic

The big news in the public health field in the U.S. is Obamacare. In response to its passing, Master of Public Health.org created The Price of Socialized Medicine: Obamacare’s Unconstitutionality by the Numbers infographic to give insight into how it will affect everyone.

The Supreme Court yesterday upheld the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, in a landmark 5-4 decision. Unfortunately, they got it wrong. The PPACA, known colloquially as Obamacare, should have been struck down by the high court, as it is both unconstitutional and very costly:

  • Individual Mandate: Obamacare requires that all Americans carry health insurance or face an annual penalty. The federal government is effectively compelling individual citizens to enter a market, which is a clear violation of the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. The Supreme Court ruled that this was constitutionally valid as within Congress’ taxing power.
  • Medicaid Expansion: As the original Act is written, the PPACA would require states to expand Medicaid support or risk having their entire Medicaid federal funding cut off. This infringes on states’ rights. Fortunately, the Supreme Court did rule against these sanctions.

In response to the ruling, we have produced an infographic titled, “The Cost of Socialized Medicine: Obamacare’s Unconstitutionality by the Numbers”, which illustrates the folly of the PPACA as well as some of the costs that will be borne as a result.

Obviously, this design is promoting a specific opinion, but we’re here to discuss the infographic design itself.

  • The design outlines a really good step-by-step story top-to-bottom, and summarizes the data behind their point of view clearly
  • Good mix of illustrations and data visualization within each section.
  • In general, there’s WAY too much text in the design.  They want to be thorough in their explanations, but this much text will turn away many readers from reading the infographic at all.  Also, most of the text is too small to read on their landing page.  Less text would have been more effective, and allowed for a larger font.
  • The timeline looks like events along the heartbeat axis, but they aren’t spaced out appropriately to match their dates.
  • I like the icon representation of the justices.  Just enough detail to be recognizable.
  • Clear, easy to understand map of the costs to each state in the country map
  • The sizes of the circles in the Cost of Obamacare section are close, but not quite accurately representing the dollar figures shown.  Some are larger than they should be, and a couple are smaller.  Almost like the sizes were eye-balled instead of calculated mathematically.  Odd.
  • The states that have filed lawsuits would be easier to understand if the colored states were still placed within the map of the U.S.
  • Good list of sources
  • Need a copyright statement and the URL to the original infographic landing page for readers that find the infographic posted on the Internet to be able to find the original.

Thanks to Jimmy for sending in the link!

Thursday
Sep062012

White House Infographic: Extending Middle Class Tax Cuts

Extending Middle Class Tax Cuts Infographic

Here is a new infographic from the White House illustrating why Obama’s plan to Extend Middle Class Tax Cuts is the right thing to do. The infographic points out the pro’s for why it should be passed and what will happen if it isn’t passed.  I’m certainly not pushing a political bias, but I thought it would helpful to take a close look at some issues with the design.

From the White House:

Unless the the House of Representatives takes action before January 1, 2013, a typical middle-class family of four will see their taxes go up by $2,200 in the coming year.

President Obama is fighting to prevent that from happening. He is pushing lawmakers to get this done.

What we should do right now is give middle-class families and small business owners a guarantee that their taxes will not go up next year,” he said. “When families have the security of knowing that their taxes won’t go up they’re more likely to spend, and more likely to grow the economy. When small business owners have certainty on taxes and can plan ahead they’re more likely to hire and create new jobs. And that benefits all of us.” – President Obama

 

A few thoughts:

  • I like the progress bar design to visually show the current status of the issue.
  • Overall, the text is very small.  Even  when viewing the full-size resolution version on the landing page, some of the text is hard to read.
  • Sources are only listed for one statistic the Reducing the Federal Deficit section.  Where does the rest of the data come from, and why should we believe it?
  • Visualizing the stats in the first section would have been very helpful to put the numbers into context.  They should show the reader that 114 Million Middle-Class Families is a certain percentage of the total number of families in the U.S.
  • Nice use of red color to show the opposing proposal.  From a design standpoint, red = bad/negative so this visually shows the opposing plan with a subconscious negative bias.
  • The visualization of 100 people icons is correct, but would be easier for the reader to understand if it was organized in rows of 10.  Our number system is Base-10, so that’s how readers understand data.
  • Again, the rows of 15 small office buildings are hard for the reader to understand.  They should be rows of 10 to be immediately understandable.
  • The U.S. map should be display the values as a heat map.  States with higher values would have full color, and states with lower values would have lighter shades of the same color in accordance to the values.  Don’t make the reader read all of the text values and hunt to figure out the higher and lower values.  You don’t want to make your readers work that hard, when you can visualize it easily for them.
  • The “Learn more…” statement at the end is a good call-to-action at the end of the infographic, but they should also include the URL of the infographic landing page so people can find the original.

The White House has been experimenting with infographics for about a year now.  You can see my thoughts about two previous examples of The Obama Energy Agenda and The Resurgence of the American Automobile.

What do you think about the design?  What do you like, or would have done differently?

Found on the White House webpage

Tuesday
Dec062011

Timeplots Poster Sale - 30% OFF!

As an exclusive gift to readers of Cool Infographics, Timeplots.com is offering a 30% discount on all posters when you use the Promo Code “sale2011” before the end of the year. 

I love these posters, and I have both the Supreme Court and the American Presidency posters here at my office.  For your office, for a nearby school, for your kids or even a Christmas gift, these posters are a fantastically detailed infographic reference.  The U.S. Supreme Court, the American Presidency, the U.S. Senate and both U.S. Political Parties!

A big thanks to Nathaniel for all of his designs and offering this end-of-the-year discount to the readers of Cool Infographics!