Archive for the ‘Infographics’ Category
Before the start of game three of the World Series, Fox Sports showed this map to their viewers. It is awful. Let me tell you why.
(A caveat: While I have ended up doing a lot of infographics, I’m an illustrator/artist, and not a data visualisation expert, so my opinions do not and should not have the weight of people like Edward Tufte.)
We live in an age where, just like love, bad infographics are all around. I have made bad infographics in my life. Plenty of them. I like to think, though, that when I look back at those bad graphics, I learn from the mistakes I made. To that end, let’s look at some mistakes in the Fox Sports map.
We can start by putting our fingers in our mouths to mime vomiting at the aesthetic of Fox’s on-screen graphics. All the shiny stuff that is way more appropriate for Robot Wars than baseball. Add in blurry bits of orange and white in the background, and lay it all over a blimp shot of St. Louis.
Maps should be easy to read, especially if they are going to be on screen for fewer than 15 seconds, as this map was. Your eyes and brain have to read and understand which categories of data are being shown and then process those categories when looking at the map. The way this map has been laid out makes that difficult.
Firstly, the colours they have chosen to represent each team. One of the teams has “red” in the name. Which colour is that team assigned on the map? Blue. With so much to take in in a short space of time, that one should have been a no-brainer, and they got it wrong. Of course, both teams have red as their main colour (and cardinal is a shade of red, I guess), which does make it more difficult, but, in my opinion, the team with the name of the colour in their name gets first dibs on that colour.
Fox is showing us four kinds of states here: heavily in favour of either team, or slightly in favour of either team. That’s fine. I’m all for less black and white and more grey in data analysis in general. But does the key to understanding this information really need to take up a third of the screen?
And that giant key is so difficult to read. For one thing, the key area is dominated by the chopped team logos on black backgrounds. (This is a bug of mine with a lot of sports broadcasts: designing their on-screen graphics with no regard to keeping the logos intact. Here, we can see the middle half of the Red Sox’s cap insignia, which at a glance looks like a badly-drawn H. Note that TV networks never do that with their own logos.) Those logos add nothing to our understanding. They are visual junk. And they also create an overpowering amount of white in the area we are supposed to be able to quickly read and understand. Squint your eyes (or just take your specs off, nerds) and you’ll see that the most noticeable part of that key is a whole load of white.
The relevant information in that third of the screen should be the colours used on the map and what they represent. But the colours that they’ve used on the map are shown on the bracket-y end bits of their Terminator-ish graphics. Those end brackets contain the most important information for understanding the map, yet they are almost invisible.
Look closely at those faux-shiny brackets: they’re not even the same shades as those used on the map. This graphic used blues and reds that are too close to each other. It’s difficult to differentiate between “leaning” and “heavily,” even if you did manage to figure out that the brackets on the partial-logo cartouches are the whole key to the map.
One last thing: The Red Sox’s home city and state and region is, as we all know, in the north east of the United States. The whole map is tilted away from us. Massachusetts and the rest of New England are already small states, in terms of land area, compared to the states in the west of the country. In fact, both of the teams’ home states are in the half of the map tilted furthest from us. If Fox Sports absolutely must tilt the map, it would’ve been preferable to flip the elements of the graphic, so the map could be titled with the east coast closest to us. This is if and only if you insist on tilting the map at all.
The failures of this map irked me so much that I spent almost ten whole minutes on remaking it. Imagine this quick Tumblr post as me showing you the plans of a house. I’ve not put the sofas, carpets and curtains in. Despite the knocked-off-in-ten-minutes-ness of this, I think it’s already a heck of a lot easier to read.
Whether you like my choices of colour, or my somewhat tedious tendency to always use Gill Sans, or the flatness that banishes all reflections and light source tomfoolery, I think it’s a lot clearer. I have made the map flat so that New England is a lot easier to see. Because we read left to right, the key is on the left so it’s the first thing we look at. There’s space at the top left where you could place the words “World Series,” “Fox Sports,” and “Facebook Fandom Map.”
Because of our familiarity with temperature gauges going from hot to cold, or map topography colours on regular maps, I’ve re-ordered the key from being most pro-Cardinals to least pro-Cardinals (that is, most pro-Red Sox), rather than Fox’s heavily-leaning-heavily-leaning ordering. Our brains are impressive things, and we pick up how to read graphics over the years. It’s only when people do things that confound our knowledge that data visualisation gets confusing. I mean, how else would we know that the Cardinals are popular in the Midwest?
I’ve been keeping a chart of my sleep for seven years:
Click here to see it full-size.
The Pittsburgh Pirates won last night. Their 81st win of the season. The first time they have won 81 games since, like, forever. Here’s a big chart.
Baseball! ¡Béisbol! Current leagues and teams in Mexico. Ligas y equipos actuales en México.
Thought you might like to see how infographics begin; before they get all neat and tidy. This is one I’m working on, a Venn diagram of the overlap of bands that you get from Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. This is just the basic layout. There’ll be a lot more bands eventually.
For quite a while, there’s been this thing in the back of my brain. I like looking at complicated road interchanges. The most obvious examples of which (mostly because there are photos on Wikipedia) are the Gravelly Hill Interchange in Brimingham, England and the Tom Moreland Interchange near Atlanta, Georgia. Here’s photos of those interchanges, taken from Wikipedia:
The thing I have in my head is trying to imagine such an interchange with four roads where one could drive and change direction to each of the cardinal and ordinal directions of the other roads; that is, if you are on a road travelling north, you could change directing and go northeast, east, southeast, south, southwest, west, and northwest.
Why is this interesting? I dunno, it’s just something I’ve been thinking about. But it’s a fine example of why I feel the need to do infographics and organise information. What goes on inside my brain is a big fucking mess. It’s a rubbish dump. And this specific thought, about creating an image of these interchanges demonstrates that brain junk quite well.
Last night, I was messing about with the Paper app on my iPad, drawing each of the off-ramps that would be needed to change to every direction. This is what that looks like:
When I finished drawing that, I was kinda happy, but knew that it’d make more sense if I tidied it up in Photoshop. So that’s what I did this morning. But in the process of drawing it neatly (making sure each road was straight, the same width, had a different shade to denote the height off the ground, and had a border that would aid seeing where the roads overlap or meet), I noticed that I’d been thinking about it in a way too complicated way. The solution for the cardinal and ordinal junction was ridiculously simple: a big roundabout:
Normally, when I do an infographic, it’s the topic that interests me, and I want that information to be clear so I can understand it better. But doing this interchange, it’s shown me that taking something out of my brain is cathartic; it untangles the cables behind the back of the TV. And understanding things—sometimes things that don’t actually matter—is very pleasant for my brain.
Infographic regarding that horrible Crash Test Dummies song.
Here’s a chart regarding the first four Frankie Goes To Hollywood singles.
The Fall have had a lot of members. I’ve attempted to do a chart about them.
New infographic about the songs on the Pixies’ demo tape: http://flipflopflyin.com/thepurpletape/index.html
New chart looking at the Beatles’ post-Beatles solo careers and collaborations with other members of the band. Full chart here: http://flipflopflyin.com/jpgr/index.html
Another soccer chart today. This time, I’m re-visiting and updating something I did (badly) in 2008, when I looked at the Brazil and Argentina World Cup squads over the years, and where the players played their club football. Unsurprisingly, players went where the money is, and more and more played in Europe. So, yes, I’ve updated those, and to contrast that, added charts looking at (West) Germany and Italy, too.
The last week or so, I’ve been thinking that it’s probably time to do more non-baseball infographics. And not just other sports, too. But for now, it is sport-themed. Football. Soccer.
Both are regarding English football, but at different ends of things. First, a look at Liverpool FC’s last 23 seasons. 23 championship-less seasons.
And the other chart looks at those teams that have been relegated from the Football League to “non-league football.” The first team to experience automatic relegation was my hometown team, Lincoln City, back in 1987. And plenty of other teams have suffered the same fate since.
I done a map regarding the fantastic 1991 single It’s Grim Up North by the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu. I love this song. It is not only a great record, but it reminds me of good times. Specifically, it reminds me of good times in a bar that no longer exists called Key Largo in Lincoln. You Love Us by Manic Street Preachers also reminds me of that bar.
Anyway, here’s a link to the full map: link to the full map.
First, I can’t stop myself calling them The Pink Floyd. Second, I can’t stop saying “The Pink Floyd” in a bad John Peel impression. Third, I love Pink Floyd. Fourth, I like making charts. Fifth, here’s a chart looking at who did the songwriting on Pink Floyd albums. I’d always known that Roger Waters kinda dominated as the band went on, but I don’t think I’d ever really realised to what degree. Anyway: larger version here.
Update: I was alerted by someone on Twitter that the Pink Floyd chart was a bit difficult for colour blind people to see properly, so I did a wee bit of research and changed things so that now it is hopefully easier to see. This is clearly quite important with infographics, seeing as though the whole point is to try and make information easy to understand. So in future, I’m gonna do my best to make sure all the charts are colour blind friendly. I can’t say I’m gonna go back and change old things, but I will make an effort to do my best in the future. If any colour blind people ever spot anything in the future that’s difficult to “read,” please let me know. Here’s the new version.
Should you be a crazy person and care about which caps I wear on my head, you will probably have seen my Ballcap Watch, where I keep track of such things. I had a look at which caps I wore last year, and did some addition, and made a chart using the crappy camera on my laptop and some crude Photoshop skillz:
In 2012, I went capless on 149 days (40.7%). And, thus, wore a cap on 217 days (59.3%).
Top ten caps worn:
1. Diablos Rojos del México (49 times)
2. New York Yankees (28)
3. Montreal Expos (24)
4. Colorado Rockies (23, alternate black cap with purple brim)
5. Seattle Mariners (18, alternate blue cap with teal brim)
6. St. Louis Browns (16, replica of 1908 cap)
7. Seattle Mariners (18, replica of 1977 cap)
8. Montreal Royals (9)
9=. Cincinnati Reds (7, replica of 1901 cap)
9=. Pittsburgh Pirates (7)
In total, of the 62 caps I own, I wore 26 different caps in 2012.
Your life is no better for having looked at this blog post. Apologies for that.