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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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.



What is a Stock?

What is a Stock? from Mint.com explains what stock ownership is.  It’s informative to the readers (a little text heavy), and doesn’t come across like an ad.

To make investment choices that ultimately pay off, you need to start by knowing the fundamentals. It’s a step many investor wannabes skip, since… well, studying the basic terms and trends is not exactly entertaining. We thought one way of helping you get a jumpstart on your basic investing terminology is a series of infographics that explain, visually, basic concepts. First up: what is a stock?

This is a good example of what I call the Online Lifespan of an infographic.  Instead of an infographic about a recent news topic, this one covers an informational topic that doesn’t change or drop out of the news cycle.  It’s more than a year old, but the information is still relevant, and continues to drive traffic for Mint.  This design probably has an Online Lifespan for 4-5 years before the Dow Jones chart at the bottom makes the whole infographic feel dated.

What’s the line chart in the middle?  It’s a timeline, but the height of the line chart has no meaning whatsoever.  This should have shown some type of information, but instead is just confusing to the reader.

Thanks to Dawn for sending in the link!


A Disaster for FEMA

The team at DigitalSurgeons has taken it upon themselves to design the FEMA on Warning Watch infographic that looks at how 2011 (through Spetember 14th) is draining all of the FEMA funds.

We’re obsessed with data and showcasing it in a way that anyone can digest. This was unsolicited by anyone, and we just wanted to raise awareness for how much of a reality FEMA exceeding their expense budget on natural disasters was.

After our office was shaken up by the East Coast Earthquake and pelted with rain by Hurricane Irene, we got to thinking about the freak weather being experienced across the country, and the bigger question of how the damage was being paid for. As it turns out, FEMA is starting to ask itself the same question. We created an infographic that outlines the damage caused in the wake of the natural disasters that have ravaged the country and the amount of money being spent to clean up after them.

They’ve also gone one step farther, and created the SorryMotherNature.com site where anyone can pledge to make a difference.

Please share this post and help spread the word.


Client Infographic: The Hotel Price Index

Hotels.com The Hotel Price Index infographic

Twice-a-year, Hotels.com updates their Hotel Price Index, and this year I was contacted to design some new infographics to go along with the report.  InfoNewt worked with designer Jeremy Yingling to create two infographics for the current set of data from the first half of 2011.  Since the research is global, we created one infographic based on American travelers and one based on Canadian travellers.

The hotels.com® Hotel Price Index™ (HPI™) is a regular survey of hotel prices in major city destinations across the world. The HPI is based on bookings made on hotels.com and prices shown are those actually paid by customers (rather than advertised rates) for the first half of 2011. The report largely compares prices paid in 2010 with prices paid in 2011.

The research is extensive, so we had to keep the information shared in the infographics fairly focused on only a few categories.  This keeps the design clean and easy to read, but also whets the reader’s appetite for more.

We varied the visual designs for each category.  The monument silhouettes attached to locations on the globe was a unique way to show map data and not look like a standard map.  The silhouettes also help the reader recognize the cities faster than reading the text.  It’s subtle, but the lines are color-coded by continent as well.

The Canadian data was a little bit different, so the design had to adapt:

Hotels.com The Hotel Price Index Canadian infographic

You can see the complete report data on The Hotels.com Hotel Price Index page.


US/China Trade Infographic [Making-of Video]


Back in 2009 Jess Bachman designed the Visualizing the US/China Trade infographic for Mint.com.  This design uses a sankey diagram visual that has line widths representing the relative size of all the country values.

Like it or not, the US and China have a trading relationship that has global repercussions. The plastic US flags that say Made in China don’t tell the whole story. No, not everything is made in China. In fact the US manufactures and exports almost as much as China but it consumes a great deal more. Hence, the trade imbalance. What’s interesting is exactly what the US imports, stuff like machinery and toys and as much steel and iron as it does shoes. And what we export — high-tech stuff like airplanes and medical equipment and, for some reason, 7 billion dollars worth of oleaginous fruit which is used to make cooking oil, presumably for Chinese food.

A cool infographic all by itself, but even better is that Jess captured screen shots every 10 seconds automatically using Snagit (a process he calls flowcapping), and recently put them together into a behind-the-scenes video and blog post showing his design process.  10-hours of design work, compressed down into a couple minutes.  View the high-resolution version if you can so you can actually read what’s on the screen.  This is the short version.

And the longer, 7-minute version let’s you see even more details behind his process.

Jess (ByJess.net) is best known for his annual Death & Taxes infographic poster of the U.S. Federal Budget, and recently joined the team at Visual.ly as Creative Director.  Great job Jess, and thanks for sharing your process with the world!


The 20 Most Expensive AdWords on Google

Where’s Google Making Its Money? is a great example of using data that your company has to showcase your services.  This one is from WordStream, and they analyzed their own keyword database to find the most expensive keywords from AdWords over a 90-day period.

From WordStream:

On the heels of Google’s blow-out Q2 2011 earnings announcement last week, we wanted to find out the most expensive keywords - what keywords demand the highest costs per click and are most competitive in terms of high search volume. Since the vast majority of Google’s profits come from AdWords advertising, these high CPC keyword categories are responsible for a large part of Google’s profits.

From TechCrunch:

WordStream, a venture capital-backed provider of hosted software that automates most of the manual work involved with creating and optimizing both paid and natural search engine marketing campaigns, has done some research to discover which keyword categories fetch the highest costs per click (CPC) in Google’s AdWords solution.

And of course, they made an infographic based on the results of their research

Found on Chart Porn and The Big Picture.


Students vs. Prisoners infographic


Nice, clean, simple infographic design.  Students vs. Prisoners by the law firm Buckfire & Buckfire in Michigan visually communicates one message really well: In Michigan, the average spending per prisoner is close to three times that spent per student.

Potentially a controversal budget topic in Michigan, I appreaciate that they clearly listed the link to the data source.  A couple things I would change about this design:

  • Visualize the total spending dollars that are currently listed at the the bottom in text
  • I like the use of a chalkboard style font, but it’s not used consistently throughout the design
  • For the benefits listed in the middle, I think it would be more interesting to show how much each one contributed to the total spending per prisoner

Thanks to Larry for sending me the link!


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.


What Can You Expect to Earn in the Valley?

What Can You Expect to Earn in the Valley?, from Column Five Media for Focus.com, takes a look at the Silicon Valley salary levels.

Silicon Valley earns its famous reputation not just from the fortunes that entrepreneurs create, but also from the high-paying careers available to tech-savvy employees. However, the area is also known for its incredibly high cost of living. Is working in the Valley really worth it? And how much can you expect to make in the nation’s most celebrated tech scene?

This one uses some simple visualizations, but it does a good job of putting the data and the company logos right into the charts. I would have liked to see one more visualization showing a conclusion that the higher salaries do cover the higher cost of living or not.

Thanks to Jarred for sending in the link!


Client Infographic: Waste in the Texas Energy Market

Waste in the Texas Energy Market from ChooseEnergy.com is a new infographic by InfoNewt and designer Jeremy Yingling.  This one tells the story of how much money is NOT being saved by households that don’t take advantage of lower pricing since Texas has a deregulated electricity market.

As the economy struggles to recover and households continue to cut back on spending, one of the easiest ways to save money might just be in your electric bill. In these tough economic times, consumers realize the importance of watching how every penny is spent. Today we look at the “Waste in the Texas Energy Market” and how pennies can certainly add up quickly to improve consumer finances.

Following the Infographic Release Strategy from InfoNewt, ChooseEnergy also did a great job setting up a dedicated landing page and custom URL for the infographic.  All of their links then drive traffic to this single page.  So the company blog post, Twitter feed and Facebook posts provide additional descriptions and links to this landing page.

While highlighting the fact that the Texas energy market is the 11th largest in the world, the infographic also shows that 48% of the electricity consumed is from residential use.  So what’s the big deal?  On average Texas residents pay about 11.5 cents per kWh for their home electric use when they could be paying 8.5 cents per kWh.   Doesn’t sound like much does it?  Well, those 3 pennies can add up fast and they add up to $3.7 billion for the Texas consumer market.

You can follow ChooseEnergy on Twitter at @texas_electric