February 01, 2014 / by Brendan

Exploring human-friendly data presentation

”…by visualizing information, we turn it into a landscape that you can explore with your eyes.” - David McCandless

One of the things we enjoy most is translating complex data collections into visual information that can be easily understood. Clean, intuitive maps and diagrams reveal patterns and lead to smarter problem-solving, all while providing a pleasurable user experience. We recently came across a TED Talk by David McCandless that explains how the process of making data “human-readable” often yields surprising insights.

Here’s David:

Check out more of his work for The Guardian.

A Simple Experiment

The matrix below represents average daily flow volumes (cubic feet/second) at Little Falls on the Potomac River. To set it up, we pulled a year’s worth of readings (January to December 2012) from the USGS National Water Information System. The Little Falls gauge records a measurement every 15 minutes, producing a set of some 35,000 data points. Rendering average flows as a heat map brings unusual events into focus, such as Hurricane Sandy (bottom right).

This example was created using D3.js, a JavaScript library for manipulating web pages based on data. To learn more about it, we recommend exploring the gallery and documentation at d3js.org.

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