On the cutting edge of graphics and data visualization

By IKU KAWACHI

Infographics are becoming an increasingly important component of multimedia reporting, especially on the Internet, where news consumers are typically less attentive and more demanding of interactivity and visuals than when reading a newspaper or magazine. One Web site focusing specifically on “how designers, programmers, and statisticians are putting data to good use” is FlowingData, run by Nathan Yau, a Ph.D. candidate studying statistics at UCLA. While the site is relatively unknown in the journalism industry, make no mistake — even a cursory glance through its pages is enough to show that it is nothing if not cutting-edge, standing on the forefront of graphic visualization of facts and statistics.

FlowingData’s largest and most well-maintained section is its blog, which is updated daily and showcases some of the hottest and most advanced concepts and techniques in data visualization and graphic representation — many still experimental in nature. Some of the more intriguing examples posted in recent weeks include Moritz Stefaner’s interactive map of where New Yorkers move (original page here), IBM‘s real-time data visualization designed for this year’s U.S. Open (page), Scott Manley‘s animation of asteroid discoveries over the last 30 years (YouTube video), and Charles Blow‘s correlation between faith and wealth (article). Graphics like Stefaner’s map and IBM’s circular “match display” are sure to entertain even the most mathematically challenged, and flipping through the blog’s archives unearths dozens of other infographics that are just as much fun to play with and (just maybe) use as learning tools.

But the Web site is more than just a blog or an aggregator of obscure experiments by statisticians, programmers, and Photoshop-obsessed geeks with too much time on their hands. It also has an in-house “Projects” section with visualizations and graphic representations created by Yau himself on popular topics such as education, unemployment, economic growth, and even the all-powerful social network, Facebook. Many of his projects are available as poster-size prints. (Naturally, all are available online.) It even has a “Forums” section where users that share such interests can congregate and discuss topics such as creating Dorling catograms and correlating class size to SAT scores. Even journalists and students that have little involvement in graphic design or statistics today may very well find inspiration in FlowingData and its articles and projects.

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