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Entries in presidential (44)

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!

Friday
Nov042011

Death & Taxes 2012 (Q&A with Jess Bachman) - Poster Giveaway! #deathandtaxes

The new 2012 Death & Taxes poster has been released, and this year it’s better than ever.  Designed by Jess Bachman (ByJess.net) this poster visualizes the 2012 proposed U.S. Federal Budget.  The Death & Taxes poster is one of the best infographics I’ve ever seen, and it gets better every year.

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 2012 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 2012 and 2002 is included so you can spot trends.

PURCHASE: This year, Jess also had the opportunity to partner with Seth Godin and his Domino Project to make the full-size 24” x 36” poster available for purchase through Amazon.  Currently, you can purchase a copy of the poster for $19.99.  Also, check out Jess’s video introduction on the Amazon page.

POSTER GIVEAWAY: Cool Infographics is giving away one FREE copy of the poster.  The free poster will go to one randomly chosen person that tweets a link to this blog post on Twitter and includes the hashtag: #deathandtaxes.  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 direct message if you have won!

I will choose the winner at 12 noon (Central Time) on Friday, November 11, 2011 (11/11/11).  I will contact the winner, and order the poster from Amazon to be delivered to the winner.

INTERVIEW: Similar to last year, Jess was willing to answer some behind-the-scenes questions about this year’s poster:

Cool Infographics: What’s the most interesting thing you learned from the 2012 data?

Jess Bachman: Lots of reductions in the military side.  It’s mostly from the OCO war funding, but its interesting to see what actually is getting cut the most.  Mostly Army funding and RDT&E across the board.  I would think the OCO was mostly Operations and Procurement.

Cool Infographics:  Has you design process changed at all this year?  What software did you use to help dig through the data and create the design?

Jess Bachman:  Well this year I tried to work exclusively within the official spreadsheets, rather than pick out the numbers from the paper (PDF) budget.  I think it’s more accurate and easier to get totals.  Mainly just used excel and photoshop as always.

Cool Infographics:  When did the 2012 data become available, and how long did it take you create this year’s poster?

Jess Bachman:  It was supposed to be released in February but it was a month late.  I started moving on it at a full clip then got involved with Amazon/Godin and the timelines shifted quite a bit, so while I usually get the post out in April, it was released in September this year.

Cool Infographics:  How did working with Seth Godin and the Domino project come about?

Jess Bachman:  Seth just emailed me out of the blue.  We talked and it seemed like a no-brainer.

Cool Infographics:  How does working with Amazon and the Domino project change how you print and distribute the poster?

Jess Bachman:  Well previously my Mom did most of the shipper and I also had a 3rd party do fulfillment and shipping.  It’s a rather time consuming and frustrating process.  Sending out orders, doing customer support, paying vendors, etc.  Now it’s all in Amazon’s hands.  They got it printed and of course are warehousing and shipping it too.  I’m quite glad as they do a much better job of shipping than I do.  Of course they also take their cut of the profits.  As for Domino, they have their own distribution channels and lists and also work closely with Amazon to make sure the product page is well presented too.  This year it reached #18 on the best sellers list.  I guess that makes me a best selling author.  I don’t think I could have accomplished that without Domino/Amazon.

Cool Infographics:  I see you made a video to include on the Amazon page, how was that experience?

Jess Bachman:  Seth told me they needed a video ASAP so I just made one that afternoon.  I suppose I would put more effort into it next year but videos help sell products and i think it does a good job of that.

Cool Infographics:  Any new design features added to the poster this year?

Jess Bachman:  I wanted to include some non-governmental items in the poster this year for reference.  They are in the bottom left and include things like the size of the video game industry, bill gate’s net worth and other such things.  When talking about billions of dollars all the time, sometimes you need to get out of government-mode to put those figures into further context.

Cool Infographics:  The past posters have been shared very heavily in social media, which social sharing sites have you found most successful?

Jess Bachman:  Well, Digg has traditionally been a big asset, but then Digg fell apart so I no longer pay attention to it.  In general, I have abandoned the traditional accelerants like Digg, reddit, etc. and instead focus on my network of bloggers and influencers. Combine that with Facebook liking and you can really spread something.

Cool Infographics:  Last year we talked about some favorite places that have the poster on display.  Any new ones this year?

Jess Bachman:  Well, with a larger audience and hopefully more sales, the poster will be everywhere.  Unfortunately, I get lots of requests for discounts for schools with tight budgets, but I have no control over price anymore.  I can say that an iOS app is in development so that will be interesting.  My ultimate goal is to get on the Daily Show to talk about the poster in April.  People constantly tell me I need to be on there, and I’m a huge fan, so I figure I have a good shot, just need to nag the right people.

You can follow Jess on Twitter (@mibi)

Here you can see the poster up close with the Closr.it zooming viewer.  I believe this is Flash based, so it may not work on iDevices.

 

Monday
Aug082011

Visualizing the U.S. Debt

The U.S. Debt Visualized is a great visualization of scale, and can be found at usdebt.kleptocracy.us, where you start with a single $100 bill, and start stacking them in orders of magnitude.  Stack them on pallets, start stacking the pallets and show them in comparison to other real-world items.

$114,500,000,000,000. - US unfunded liabilities
To the right you can see the pillar of cold hard $100 bills that dwarfs the
WTC & Empire State Building - both at one point world’s tallest buildings.
If you look carefully you can see the Statue of Liberty.

Numbers this large become too big to truly comprehend to many people, and I love visualizations like this one that put the unbelievable high numbers into context and scale.  Here’s one trillion dollars:

A visualization like this has a natural bias.  Whatever object the designer chooses to show in relation to the stack of bills can make the pile appear large or small in comparison.  In this example, the piles of money are truly staggering, but that’s all the reader can walk away with.  In it’s defense, this visualization isn’t trying to propose a solution, it’s just trying to make the viewer understand how big the number is.

Found on SeeWhatYouMean, VizWorld, Business Insider and Information Aesthetics.

Friday
Jun102011

White House Infographic: The Resurgence of the American Automotive Industry

 

The team at the White House released The Resurgence of the American Automotive Industry infographic on the White House Blog last week in conjunction with President Obama’s visit to Toledo, OH and the JEEP manufacturing plant there.

Today, President Obama will travel to Toledo, Ohio where he will visit the Chrysler Group’s Toledo Supplier Park – an operation that employs more than 1,700 workers producing Jeep Wranglers, Jeep Liberties, and Dodge Nitros.  Just two years ago, Chrysler was filing for bankruptcy, and President Obama made the tough decision to support the restructuring of the company rather than allow it to fail – which would have cost tens of thousands of American jobs.

Today, Chrysler is repaying its government loans six years ahead of schedule and posted five consecutive quarters of operating profit.  Earlier this week, the National Economic Council released a new report on the resurgence of the American automotive industry.  Over the past two years, the auto industry has added 113,000 jobs - the fastest pace of job growth in the auto industry since 1998.

Check out this infographic that highlights some of the key successes in the auto industry since 2009.

I wrote a long critique of the last White House infographic about Obama’s Energy Plan (The Obama Energy Agenda: The White House attempts an #Infographic).  This one improves on some of the design issues I had with the last one.  I like that the White house is being consistent with the design style, and you can tell at a glance that this one is obviously in the family of official infographics from the White House.

Citing sources is still an issue for these infographics from the White House.  There are two sources cited and referenced, but many more statistics are included without any source.  For example, where does the “39% increase in exports of vehicles and parts to China” come from?  There are many statistics that could have been visualized to reduce the amount of text as well.  Listing a bunch of numbers in bold text doesn’t make for a good infographic design.

I love the inclusion of the Jeep photo with information mapped on top.  Much more interesting and engaging to the reader than what could have been a list of 17 suppliers, and more interesting than plotting them on a map of the U.S.

The timeline is pretty boring.  The dotted line could have been tire tracks, and way too much text that could have been data visualizations.

Thanks to Mary Kaye for sending me the link!

Monday
May092011

The Obama Energy Agenda: The White House attempts an #Infographic

 

On Friday, the White House (yes, that White House) released this infographic, The Obama Energy Agenda & Gas Prices.  This is one of the very few “official” infographic designs we’ve seen from the U.S. Government, so I think it deserves a little more critique than normal.  There are some things I like about this one, and some things I don’t.

The Good: 

  • The fact that this was released by the White House, is a really big positive.  I generally praise companies that experiment with infographics to get their messages out, and an official one like this from the government says big things about infographics continuing to grow in relevance in today’s society of information overload.  If you want your information to reach a bunch of people online (especially the younger crowd) then using an infographic is your best bet.
  • Nice layout telling a story.  The best infographics tell a story well, and the progression of topics top-to-bottom tell the story Obama’s team wants to share.  One topic leads into the next.
  • Bold colors.  The dark background stands out nicely in most online news and blog formats, even on the white background color of the White House Blog.  The color gradient matches the new, official White House logo with the blue gradient background you see at the top.  Makes the overall infographic feel very official.
  • Good use of illustrations.  Sometimes, visualizing a point is effectively done with an image or illustration so the reader immediately knows what you’re talking about.  The car with a power cord, the bus, the fuel gauge and the oil wells designed into the separator line near the top.
  • I like the color scheme too.  Some infographics go so crazy with clashing colors it’s hard to read, but the consistent light blue, yellow and white is easy on the eyes.
  • They included a social sharing button at the bottom of the blog posts.  They use a combined social button that expands to show many sharing services.  I generally find that less people actually use combined buttons, but they certainly save screen real estate and there’s a way to share online.  There’s no logo or company name included in this button either, so the White House isn’t endorsing a particular company.
  • I like the line chart.  They removed the y-axis labels and put the data right onto the chart, along with additional comments.  This makes the whole chart easier to understand.

 

The Bad: 

  • NO DATA SOURCES!  Where did the numbers come from?!?  You want readers to engage and debate your story, not challenge your facts.  Citing all of your data sources keeps the conversation on your story.  This design, without sources, almost invites readers to focus on challenging the facts instead of becoming engaged in the conversation about energy.
  • Way too much text!
  • The infographic above is the blog-size version.  The high-resolution version is tough to find because clicking on the image only takes you to the blog-size image.  Separately, in the text of the White House post, you have to click “Download Full Size” to view the higher-resolution version. (Click the image above to view high-resolution)
  • Text too small.  The font is so small in some places, it’s hard to read, and many people won’t find the text link to the high-resolution version.
  • Not many data visualizations.  Big numbers are not visualizations. and there are only three actual data visualizations (line chart, column chart and color filled factory illustrations).  There are so many more numbers included that should have been visualized to give them context!  
    • How does 35.5 mpg from 2012-2016 compare to the last four years?
    • “Over 2 billion barrels of American crude oil produced in 2010.”  Show the last 20 years to provide context.
    • “…would reduce oil consumption of about 750 million barrels through 2010.”  Is that a lot?  Making the text bold makes it feel important, but it doesn’t give the reader any frame of reference.
  • The stacked column chart could be much better.
    • They could have removed the Y-axis labels and the background lines
    • Legends are evil.  In the 2012 column, they could have identified the color-coding of the different sources of renewable energy instead of putting a separate legend under the chart.  Makes the reader work harder to look back-and-forth at a legend.
    • Why isn’t “Solar” the yellow color instead of “Geothermal”?  Yellow…like the sun.
  • The factory visual at the bottom is tough.  For any shape visualizations, it’s the AREA of the shape that conveys meaning, and I think the designer missed it here.  It looks like the green color height matches the data, but not the area of the factory shape.  Readers understand this intuitively, so to most readers the factory showing 2035 data will just look wrong, even if they don’t know why.
  • No designer credit.  Who designed it?
  • No single landing page.  The infographic is actually included in two different blog posts: The President on Jobs & Gas Prices: Read His Remarks, Download the Graphic on May 6th and Weekly Address: Clean Energy to Out-Innovate the Rest of the World on May 7th.
    • This makes tracking more difficult because they would have to look at links and views for both individual blog posts.
    • The infographic is actually the secondary topic to both blog posts, so it’s never truly highlighted as the focus of the blog post.  It’s just included in blog posts about energy topics.

 

Don’t get me wrong.  I LOVE that the White House staff is experimenting with infographics, and I hope they do many more in the future.  They just need some more practice. 

What do you think?

Wednesday
Oct202010

Brazilian Presidential Elections infographic

From TwitRadar.com is a cool tracking map of Twitter posts during August 2010 related to the Brazilian Presidential Election and the candidates.  Data is captured from www.twiteleitoral.com.br

It describes the daily variations on the number of quotations for the top 2 more mentioned candidates, Dilma and Serra. It also points out “of the curve” campaign or media events that took affect on the twitter chattering.

Norton Amato Jr. and his team were gracious enough to translate it into English for readers of Cool Infographics, and here is the original:

Big thanks to Norton and his team!  Great job!