Information is Beautiful

At Lab42, we’re obsessed with data. You can always find us analyzing data from our own market research studies, or perusing the web to find the latest mind-boggling stats to share with the team. Recently we discovered the book Information is Beautiful by David McCandless, which just took our data obsession to a whole new level. With page after page of stunningly displayed information, this book is essentially a 250 page infographic. It just doesn’t get much better than that. Below is a snippet from one of McCandless’ visualizations. This one compares Left and Right wing government in the U.S.

How can a piece of data come to be, well, beautiful? The following is a behind-the-scenes look at Lab42’s data beautification process, using an example from the NFL Lockout infographic we published last year. In creating this infographic, we thought about all of the aspects of the lockout that were sparking discussion. One question we asked respondents was how many games they thought should be played during a NFL season. The responses from this question are shown below, by percentages.

Though informative, this data is not so visually appealing. Even though we can see that 41% of respondents believe that 16 games should be played in a season, it’s still difficult to conceptualize, and this table isn’t so attention grabbing. First, we’ll deal with the problem of conceptualizing the data. Let’s use Excel to turn this table into a bar graph:

Better. But, since this particular piece of data is in percentages, it might be even easier to understand as a pie chart. This will enable us to see each response in relation to the data as a whole.

Now the information is presented in a clear and relevant format, making it simple for viewers to examine the results. But what if the information could be organized in a way that relates to the data itself? Millions of stats can be showcased in a bar graph or pie chart, but this data is about football. That’s where design comes in.

Voila! The amazing design team at Lab42 transformed this data into a football-shaped chart. And even if you don’t have access to professional design resources, there are many free online tools that will help you make your data pop. Here are a few:

Wordle and Tagxedo: These sites will create tag clouds from any text or website. Tag clouds are visual arrangements of words based on how often the word occurs in the given text, the most frequent words being the largest. On Tagxedo, you can even order some swag printed with your tag cloud.

StatPlanet: This site helps you create visually engaging interactive graphs, charts and maps with your data.

Google Public Data: Using this tool, you can create visualizations using information from Google’s vast database of publically available data. The New York Times Data Visualization Lab does something similar.

Many Eyes and Hohli: These easy-to-use online tools allow you to upload your data and transform it into different types of charts, graphs and word clouds.

Are there any other data visualization tools you love?

Article by Sara

Hi, I'm Sara! I'm an intern for Lab42, working on PR, marketing and social media. As a contributor for the Lab42 blog, I get really excited whenever I come across a story about market research in the news. I also love to read about out-of-the-box social media campaigns. I'm currently a senior at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts majoring in Business and International Studies, and I spent last semester studying abroad in Copenhagen. Fun fact: In high school I was a coxswain on my school's rowing team.

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