Data Visualization: Modern Approaches

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Data presentation can be beautiful, elegant and descriptive. There is a variety of conventional ways to visualize data – tables, histograms, pie charts and bar graphs are being used every day, in every project and on every possible occasion. However, to convey a message to your readers effectively, sometimes you need more than just a simple pie chart of your results. In fact, there are much better, profound, creative and absolutely fascinating ways to visualize data. Many of them might become ubiquitous in the next few years.

So what can we expect? Which innovative ideas are already being used? And what are the most creative approaches to present data in ways we’ve never thought before?

Let’s take a look at the most interesting modern approaches to data visualization as well as related articles, resources and tools.

1. Mindmaps

Trendmap 20071

Web Trends 20072

Informationarchitects.jp3 presents the 200 most successful websites on the web, ordered by category, proximity, success, popularity and perspective in a mindmap. Apparently, web-sites are connected as they’ve never been before. Quite comprehnsive.

2. Displaying News

Newsmap4 is an application that visually reflects the constantly changing landscape of the Google News news aggregator. The size of data blocks is defined by their popularity at the moment.

Newsmap5

Voyage6 is an RSS-feader which displays the latest news in the “gravity area”. News can be zoomed in and out. The navigation is possible with a timeline.

Voyage7

Digg BigSpy8 arranges popular stories at the top when people digg them. Bigger stories have more diggs.

Digg Big Spy9

Digg Stack10: Digg stories arrange themselves as stack as users digg them. The more diggs a story gets, the larger is the stack.

Stack11

3. Displaying Data

Amaztype12, a typographic book search, collects the information from Amazon and presents it in the form of keyword you’ve provided. To get more information about a given book, simply click on it.

Amaztype13

Similar idea is being used by Flickrtime14. The tool uses Flickr API to present the uploaded images in real-time. The images form the clock which shows the current time.

Flickrtime15

Time Magazine16 uses visual hills (spikes) to emphasize the density of American population in its map.

Where we live17

CrazyEgg18 lets you explore the behavior of your visitors with a heat map. More popular sections, which are clicked more often, are highlighted as “warm” – in red color.

CrazyEgg19

Hans Rosling TED Talk20 is a legendary talk of the Swedish professor Hans Rosling, in which he explains a new way of presenting statistical data. His Trendalyzer software (recently acquired by Google) turns complex global trends into lively animations, making decades of data pop. Asian countries, as colorful bubbles, float across the grid — toward better national health and wealth. Animated bell curves representing national income distribution squish and flatten. In Rosling’s hands, global trends — life expectancy, child mortality, poverty rates – become clear, intuitive and even playful.

Hans Rosling21

Three Views shows three views of the earth, in which each country is represented by a circle that shows the amount of money spent on the military (size of circle) and what fraction of the country’s earnings that uses (colour). Compact and beautiful presentation of data.

Three Views

We Feel Fine22 shows human feelings, calculated from a large number of weblogs.

We Feel Fine23

Visualizing the Power Struggle in Wikipedia24 displays the most popular articles and the most frequent search queries in the heatmap.

Wikipedia25
Wikipedia26

Websites as graphs27. An HTML DOM Visualizer Applet, which displays sites as graphs depending on the amount of links, tables, div tags, images, forms and other tags.

Websites as graphs28

Interactive History Timeline29 presents the history of Great Britain, divided into interactive data blocks. The density of events is displayed on the map.

Timeline30

Winning Lotto Numbers31 is supposed to present the frequency of appearance of every number from one year to the next one. This graph is definitely not one of the most clear ones.

Lotto32

Elastic Lists33 demonstrates the “elastic list” principle for browsing multi-facetted data structures. You can click any number of list entries to query the database for a combination of the selected attributes. The approach visualizes relative proportions (weights) ofmetadata by size and visuzalizes characteristicness of a metadata weight by brightness. Author’s blog34 regularly informs about new experiments in the area of data visualization. Nice to observe, useful to bookmark.

Elastic Lists35

The JFK Assassination Timeline36An Ajax-based approach vor visual presentation of historical events. John F. Kennedy assassination as timeline with numerous presentation options. The related article37 with further examples38.

4. Displaying connections

Munterbund39 showcases the results of research graphical visualization of text similarities in essays in a book. “The challenge is to find forms of graphical and/or typographical representation of the essays that are both appealing and informative. We have attempted create a system which automatically generates graphics according to predefined rules.”

Text similarities40
Text similarities41
Text similarities42

Burst Labs43 suggests similar or connected items to your search queries (favourite artists, tv shows, movies, genres etc.) in a bubble. Not really new, but still inspiring.

Burst Labs44

Universe DayLife45 displays events, connections and news as circles which gravitate around the topic they are related to.

Universe46

Musiclens gives music recommendations and presents your current mood and musical taste as a diagram.

Musiclens

Figd’t Visualizer47 allows you to play around with your network. You interface with the Visualizer through Flickr and LastFM tags, using any tag to create a Magnet. Once a Tag Magnet is created, members of the network will gravitate towards it if they have photos or music with that same Tag. Available for Mac OS X, Windows and Linux. Alpha-version.

Fidgt48

What have I been listening to?49: Lee Byron describes his approach of creating a histogram about his music listening history.

Last.FM50

Shape Of Song51: What does music look like? The Shape of Song is an attempt to answer this seemingly paradoxical question. The custom software in this work draws musical patterns in the form of translucent arches, allowing viewers to see – literally – the shape of any composition available on the Web.

Shape Of Song52

Musicmap53: connections are represented as connected lines; they create a web.

Musicmap54

Musicovery55 displays music taste connections and lets you listen to the song and browse through similar songs.

Musicovery56

Lanuage Poster57 proves that even simple lines can be descriptive enough. The History of Programming Languages as an original timeline.

History of Programming Languages58

5. Displaying web-sites

Spacetime59 offers Google, Yahoo, Flickr, eBay and images in 3D. The tool displays all of your search results in an easy to view elegant 3D arrangement. Company promises that the days of mining through pages and pages of tiny thumbnails in an effort to find the item you are looking for are over.

Spacetime60

UBrowser61 is an open source test mule that renders interactive web pages onto geometry using OpenGL® and an embedded instance of Gecko, the Mozilla rendering engine.

UBrowser62

6. Articles & Resources

  • Visualcomplexity.com63
    Screenshot64

    The project presents the most beautiful methods of data visualization as well as further references and book suggestions. The gallery has over 450 entries.

  • In his article Infosthetics: the beauty of data visualization65 Andrew Vande Moere, well-known through his blog Infosthetics66, discusses the aesthetics of data visualization and modern apparoaches in this area. Creative design ideas combine form and content and generate fascinating graphs – is it a new area in the art of next generation?
    Infosthetics67
    Infosthetics68
    Infosthetics69

    The article presents 13 new techniques of data visualization, with examples and further references.

  • 16 Awesome Data Visualization Tools70
    “From navigating the Web in entirely new ways to seeing where in the world twitters are coming from, data visualization tools are changing the way we view content. We found the following 16 apps both visually stunning and delightfully useful.” An extensive overview by Mashable.com.
  • Dataesthetics71
    Eric Blue provides some references to unusual Data Visualization methods.
  • infosthetics – information aesthetics
    72

    Screenshot73

    Andrew Vande Moere about data visualization, latest development and design ideas.

  • Visualizing Delicious Roundup
    An overview of Del.icio.us tools you can use to visualize your bookmarks.
  • Periodic Table74
    A periodic table of visualization methods.

    Periodic Table75

7. Tools and Services

  • You can create your own timelines with Xtimeline76 and Circavie77.
  • IBM Many Eyes78
    Screenshot79

    This Java-based service visualizes data online and helps to create pie charts, diagrams, tree maps, bar charts and histograms. Registration is required. Some examples80 are simply amazing.

  • prefuse | the prefuse visualization toolkit81
    Presents the beta-version of a Java-based toolkit for programming of application with integrated data visualization methods
  • Swivel82
    This service creates pie charts, diagrams and histograms “on the fly”. It also provides a Swivel API83 you can use to improve already existing visualization methods.
  • You can find even more tools for designing your own diagrams and charts online in our article Charts and Diagrams Tools84.

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://www.informationarchitects.jp/ia-trendmap-2007v2
  2. 2 http://www.informationarchitects.jp/ia-trendmap-2007v2
  3. 3 http://www.informationarchitects.jp
  4. 4 http://www.marumushi.com/apps/newsmap/
  5. 5 http://www.marumushi.com/apps/newsmap/
  6. 6 http://rssvoyage.com
  7. 7 http://rssvoyage.com
  8. 8 http://labs.digg.com/bigspy/?popular
  9. 9 http://labs.digg.com/bigspy/?popular
  10. 10 http://labs.digg.com/stack/
  11. 11 http://labs.digg.com/stack/
  12. 12 http://amaztype.tha.jp
  13. 13 http://amaztype.tha.jp
  14. 14 http://www.hottoast.org/convexstyle/flickrtime/
  15. 15 http://www.hottoast.org/convexstyle/flickrtime/
  16. 16 http://www.time.com/time/covers/20061030/where_we_live/
  17. 17 http://www.time.com/time/covers/20061030/where_we_live/
  18. 18 http://www.crazyegg.com
  19. 19 http://crazyegg.com/
  20. 20 http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/92
  21. 21 http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/92
  22. 22 http://www.wefeelfine.org/movements.html
  23. 23 http://www.wefeelfine.org/movements.html
  24. 24 http://www.abeautifulwww.com/2007/05/20/visualizing-the-power-struggle-in-wikipedia/
  25. 25 http://www.abeautifulwww.com/2007/05/20/visualizing-the-power-struggle-in-wikipedia/
  26. 26 http://www.abeautifulwww.com/2007/05/20/visualizing-the-power-struggle-in-wikipedia/
  27. 27 http://www.aharef.info/2006/05/websites_as_graphs.htm
  28. 28 http://www.aharef.info/2006/05/websites_as_graphs.htm
  29. 29 http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/interactive/timelines/british/index.shtml
  30. 30 http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/interactive/timelines/british/index.shtml
  31. 31 http://www.microsiervos.com/archivo/azar/loto-estrella.html
  32. 32 http://www.microsiervos.com/archivo/azar/loto-estrella.html
  33. 33 http://well-formed-data.net/experiments/elastic_lists/
  34. 34 http://well-formed-data.net/
  35. 35 http://well-formed-data.net/experiments/elastic_lists/
  36. 36 http://simile.mit.edu/timeline/examples/jfk/jfk.html
  37. 37 http://simile.mit.edu/timeline/
  38. 38 http://simile.mit.edu/timeline/examples/
  39. 39 http://www.munterbund.de/visualisierung_textaehnlichkeiten/essay.html
  40. 40 http://www.munterbund.de/visualisierung_textaehnlichkeiten/essay.html
  41. 41 http://www.munterbund.de/visualisierung_textaehnlichkeiten/essay.html
  42. 42 http://www.munterbund.de/visualisierung_textaehnlichkeiten/essay.html
  43. 43 http://www.burstlabs.com
  44. 44 http://www.burstlabs.com
  45. 45 http://universe.daylife.com/
  46. 46 http://universe.daylife.com/
  47. 47 http://www.fidgt.com/visualize
  48. 48 http://www.fidgt.com/visualize
  49. 49 http://megamu.com/lastfm/
  50. 50 http://megamu.com/lastfm/
  51. 51 http://www.turbulence.org/Works/song/gallery/gallery.html
  52. 52 http://www.turbulence.org/Works/song/gallery/gallery.html
  53. 53 http://www.dimvision.com/musicmap/
  54. 54 http://www.dimvision.com/musicmap/
  55. 55 http://www.musicovery.com
  56. 56 http://www.musicovery.com
  57. 57 http://www.oreilly.com/pub/a/oreilly/news/languageposter_0504.html
  58. 58 http://www.oreilly.com/pub/a/oreilly/news/languageposter_0504.html
  59. 59 http://www.spacetime.com
  60. 60 http://www.spacetime.com
  61. 61 http://ubrowser.com/
  62. 62 http://ubrowser.com/
  63. 63 http://www.visualcomplexity.com/vc/
  64. 64 http://www.visualcomplexity.com/vc/
  65. 65 http://pingmag.jp/2007/03/23/infosthetics-form-follows-data/
  66. 66 http://infosthetics.com/
  67. 67 http://pingmag.jp/2007/03/23/infosthetics-form-follows-data/
  68. 68 http://pingmag.jp/2007/03/23/infosthetics-form-follows-data/
  69. 69 http://pingmag.jp/2007/03/23/infosthetics-form-follows-data/
  70. 70 http://mashable.com/2007/05/15/16-awesome-data-visualization-tools/
  71. 71 http://eric-blue.com/blog/2006/10/dataesthetics_the_power_and_be.html
  72. 72 http://www.infosthetics.com/
  73. 73 http://www.infosthetics.com/
  74. 74 http://www.visual-literacy.org/periodic_table/periodic_table.html
  75. 75 http://www.visual-literacy.org/periodic_table/periodic_table.html
  76. 76 http://xtimeline.com/index.aspx
  77. 77 http://www.circavie.com
  78. 78 http://services.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/home
  79. 79 http://services.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/home
  80. 80 http://services.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/browse/visualizations
  81. 81 http://prefuse.org/
  82. 82 http://www.swivel.com/
  83. 83 http://www.swivel.com/api/early_access
  84. 84 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2006/09/01/test-aosu/

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Vitaly Friedman loves beautiful content and doesn’t like to give in easily. Vitaly is writer, speaker, author and editor-in-chief of Smashing Magazine. He runs responsive Web design workshops, online workshops and loves solving complex performance problems in large companies. Get in touch.

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  1. 1

    This is so detailed, really appreciate for your compilation

    -1
  2. 152

    Absolutely love this round-up, Vitaliy. Great stuff. I might try Crazy Egg for a project this month… looks promising. Your little bio made me laugh.

    -1
  3. 454
  4. 605

    Thank you, I’ve recently been looking for information approximately this topic for a while and yours is the greatest I’ve discovered so far. However, what about the conclusion? Are you sure about the source?

    -1
  5. 756

    nice job!

    -1
  6. 907

    Great to see the contents

    many many wishes for the kind and knowledge sharing human being

    -1
  7. 1058

    Some of the examples are “Infographics” and not “Data Visualization”

    There are differences.

    Whatever i type on google about specific mediums, i see a post of Smashing Magazine most of the times. By trying to act like you handle all the aspects of Design world, you sometimes give people false informations. Because of “Pop Magazine-like” communities like you, people get a wrong idea of what is design and they hang around with their sweet brushes and effects.

    0
  8. 1209

    Very nice article on yet another emerging opportunity for graphic design driven by data. Very exciting!

    -1
  9. 1360

    I agree with BK, lots lovely beautiful ways to present data, but users of data need it to have more structure to it, to be able to report on their findings for different audiences – there is a showcase of examples on a site called instantatlas. I think there is a lot of practicle examples there of data represented geographically

    Obat Herbal Darah Manis Pada Anak

    0
  10. 1511

    You can try also to use http://slik.io

    0
  11. 1662

    I’m modifiying google search engine,as i am willing to represent the searched results graphically,plz tell me which graph approach willl be best for this purpose…custering is on of my choices…

    0

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