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robertogreco : jonathancorum   1 > The Weight of Rain
[An older Jonathan Corum production: ]

"So when I’m looking at data, or working on an explanatory graphic, these are the moments I’m looking for.

Little “Aha!” moments that I can point to, and say “Look here, something happened,” and then try to explain.

Often those small moments can help lead a reader into the graphic, or help to explain the whole."

"I think many of the infographics we see are really just counting: 190 beers, 190 cups of coffee.

If the only thing you’re doing is coming up with a single number, then you’re doing arithmetic, not visualization.

So I want to make sure that in showing planets I’m not doing some variant of this: 190 planets.

This might be an exaggeration, but it’s the kind of thing I want to avoid.

And I think that the goal of visualization is not finding elaborate ways to encode information. I try to encode as little as possible.

You could imagine taking the same planet data and coming up with any number of geometric shapes to encode it. Maybe the vertical bar is star temperature and the horizontal bars are planet orbits.

But to me this feels like imposing a design on the data, and drawing attention to the design more than the data.

I don’t want my readers to have one finger up here on the key, and another finger down here on the graphic, looking back and forth trying to understand the design. I want the design to disappear.

And I don’t want the reader to have to work hard to decode the information — that’s my job as the designer.

I also want to make sure that I’m not introducing any patterns that don’t exist in the data.

For example, this diagram has the star numbers on the left, and the planet names — the planet letters — on the right. It looks impressive, but the X-like patterns of connecting lines are meaningless. It’s just a reflection of the way the items are ordered, and doesn’t have any interesting meaning in the real world.

There are an infinite number of ways of encoding information.

But just as I wouldn’t ask my readers to learn semaphore or Morse code to read one of my graphics — both of these say “Visualized” — I also don’t want to write microlanguages for my data that readers have to translate. If I do that, I’ve lost my reader before I’ve even started.

And most importantly, I try to keep in mind that visualization is not the same thing as explanation.

If I visualize something and walk away, I’ve only done half the job.

I haven’t shown you many projects this morning, but they do have a theme.

The Curiosity mission is a search for evidence of past water on Mars.

And the Kepler mission is a search for Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone, where liquid water might exist on the surface of a planet.

Both are examples where we — we as humans — are looking for evidence that another form of life might have responded to, or felt, or perhaps even been conscious of ...

... the weight of rain."
jonathancorum  visualization  design  data  2014  mars  change  infographics  space  planets  science  explanation  via:jenlowe 
february 2014 by robertogreco

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