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Data Journalism

The Week In Data

In our final Week in Data before our short summer break, we round up the best expert advice around on how to build an outstanding infographic.

by Paule d'Atha On July 10, 2012

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À propos de l'auteur

Paule d'Atha désigne l'équipe des journalistes de données d'Owni : Julien Goetz, Sylvain Lapoix et Nicolas Patte. Twitter @pdatha.


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We’ll ease ourselves in gently this week by exploring the 10 Steps to Developing an Amazing Infographic by Josh Smith, a member of the prominent New York design studio Hyperakt (who we recently discussed in these pages). Learned with experience over time, these ten steps are implemented daily by the agency. As dabblers in infographics ourselves (see here, here and here), the steps seem appropriate to us for any data project – graphic or otherwise. Hyperakt’s 10 Steps then: 1) Gathering data 2) Reading everything 3) Finding the narrative 4) Identifying problems 5) Creating a hierarchy 6) Building a wireframe 7) Choosing a format 8) Determining a visual approach 9) Refinement and testing 10) Releasing it into the wild. Naturally, the most interesting stuff is to be found in the examples hidden between the titles.

Putting it into practice

Putting these methods immediately into practise, this week we spotted three infographics that are very different in style, but which all seem particularly successful to us.

The first is devised by the masters in the field, The New York Times. Their Invisible Residents is based on research from the Human Microbiome Project of the National Human Genome Research Institute in the US. The challenge is huge: to represent in a single infographic an overview of microbes classified by family, location in the body, quantity and frequency. It might not always look that way, but the job of the data designer (a very du jour role these days) is a complicated job all the same..

The second infographic is designed by the team behind the Open Data Blog of Il Sole 24 Ore. Investments of Soveriegn Wealth Funds, an €81 Billion Affair takes on the challenge of visualising the mechanisms by which huge amounts of money are circulated between large countries that have cash reserves, and companies or countries in need of liquidity.

The third infographic this week is Game of Phones, a striking visualisation of the thankless war being waged by Apple and Google through their moblie download platforms. The scenario, dreamed up by the data analysis company App Annie, places the figures on an imaginary map, with a nod to the TV series of the moment.

On Interactivity

Reading Ben Jones three-part paper Data Visualization: Clarity or Aesthetics? lays the foundations for a central data journalism discussion – how best to represent data.

Having digested Ben Jones’ paper, we appreciate all the more when a data journalist’s work is documented step-by-step, revealing the journey that led  a simple idea to its final realization on the site (once again) of The New York Times. The dataviz in question dates from May 17, and illustrates the IPO of Facebook. It’s particularly exciting then to rush to the blog of Kevin Quealy, where we can retrace each step of journalist Amanda Cox and her team’s creative process.


Twitter superstar

Two data visualizations focusing on Twitter also try to incorporate this week’s principles – without necessarily convincing on all fronts.

The first is created by Jeff Johnston. His challenge was to graphically represent the links via Twitter that united participants at the EYEO festival. While the end result is not very clear, it does at least look cool.

The second, created by Nicolas Belmonte, conincides with the end of the Euro 2012 Football Championships. The #Euro2012 Streamgraph shows  the volume of tweets exchanged during the competition. While the end result might not be very pretty, it is at least clear.

Hats off

We end this week with a comprehensive presentation and a no less exciting discussion on the work of data journalism: The Eight Hats of Data Visualization Design. More than a mere aggregate of ideas on how best to represent the data, here we have a compelling alignment of arguments in favour of the establishment of a data journalism team, much as we are organised here at OWNI. Preferring the sum of unconventional talents rather than undivided structuring of all-rounders, without being specialists.


Find previous editions of The Week In Data on Owni.eu

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