A 10-minute short film produced by the MGM studio to be played in movie theaters across the country. Pete Smith explains (with graphs!) how FDR's inflationary policies are going to help the economy. Found via FinanceProfessor.com and BusinessInsider.com. Here is the related IMDB article Inflation (1933)
I was able to attend the Seminar on Innovative Approaches to Turn Statistics into Knowledge held at the Census Bureau in DC last week. It was an interesting mix of officials from government statistical offices, central banks with academics and designer/data geeks. Some of the highlights: Amanda Cox from the New York Time talking about how she is a like a tour bus driver describing the interesting stuff she finds, That she believes in visualizations that pull something forward while pushing back the rest of the data, have an annotation layer. Also that distributions are more interesting than averages, and when you have something move make sure you know why it is moving. Some of these principals you can see here and here
Helen North from the South Africa's Stats Office talking about the need to build trust in the data as well as to educate people in the uses of their data. This was accomplished by bringing together the delegates from the local municipalities so that they could learn about, discuss and debate with each other the demographic statistics collected about their home districts.
Irene Ros from ManyEyes talking about people uploading their personnel data (Warcraft stats, Facebook friends). She described how hey were using this tool to create "Data Mirrors" i.e. a picture about themselves. Also she mentioned that 88% of Wordle users feel creative when using the tool.
Jim Ridgway from Durham University's Smart Centre talked about students (14-15 year old) when face with a media story and data about the same subject were able to critique the story using the data and in some case spontaneously found more data to include in their critique.
David Spiegelhalter from Cambridge University demonstrated a very interesting site designs used to explain uncertainty to people. He stressed that there was no one right method as different people responded to different methods. During the discussion he brought up an important point to keep in mind when creating visualizations: what is the purpose behind the visualizations? Is it the
- WOW! reaction?
- to increase knowledge?
- or to effect behavior?
Reading Nathan Yau's recent post about the Rise of the Data Scientist inspired me to take a look Ben Fry's dissertation on Computational Information Design in which he describes the process for understanding data as follows:
- acquire – the matter of obtaining the data, whether from a file on a disk or from a source over a network.
- parse – providing some structure around what the data means, ordering it into categories.
- filter – removing all but the data of interest.
- mine – the application of methods from statistics or data mining, as a way to discern patterns or place the data in mathematical context.
- represent – determination of a simple representation, whether the data takes one of many shapes such as a bar graph, list, or tree.
- refine – improvements to the basic representation to make it clearer and more visually engaging.
- interact – the addition of methods for manipulating the data or controlling what features are visible.
While I don't disagree that these steps represent the process for understanding data for the individual creating the data visualization, they don't cover a step needed to create a design that is readily understood or that is persuasive to others.
User research and testing of the design is needed to verify that the representation is clear and appropriate. Although this could be considered part of the refine step, it may be needed at other points in the process (i.e. represent, or interact). For anyone who is interested in creating data visualizations for other people, it should be considered an important part of the design process.
Part of my interest in visualizing economic data comes from my belief that interaction and information design has a lot to offer the public sector in providing a better access to the data the government collects about itself and the society at large. But there are people currently looking at design's impact in delivering government services. This is happening in the United Kingdom though an organization called the Design Council which is funded by the UK government, and promotes the use of design in both businesses and public services. The goal is to "demonstrate that design can play a vital role in strengthening our economy and improving our society". My hope is that one day this type of organization will exist here in the US. Here is an introduction to their design process from their web site.
Discover The first quarter of the double diamond model marks the start of the project. This begins with an initial idea or inspiration, often sourced from a discovery phase in which user needs are identified. These include:
- Market research
- User research
- Managing information
- Design research groups.
Define The second quarter of the double diamond model represents the definition stage, in which interpretation and alignment of these needs to business objectives is achieved. Key activities during the Define stage are:
- Project development
- Project management
- Project sign-off.
Develop The third quarter marks a period of development where design-led solutions are developed, iterated and tested within the company. Key activities and objectives during the Develop stage are:
- Multi-disciplinary working
- Visual management
- Development methods
Deliver The final quarter of the double diamond model represents the delivery stage, where the resulting product or service is finalised and launched in the relevant market. The key activities and objectives during this stage are:
- Final testing, approval and launch
- Targets, evaluation and feedback loops.