Tag Archives: visualization

Infographic on Commuter Volumes Across Different CIties

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 3.14.05 PMI saw this article on the Future of Daily Travel, part of the Good Cities Project.  The slightly-larger-than thumbnail sized infographic seemed intriguing.  So I bookmarked the page so I could come back to it later when I had the chance to really dig into it.

So many things going for it!  2.5D isometrics, used as graphic, colors, use of different types of transportation, use of XY space.  I couldn’t wait to get to it.

What a disappointment when I finally had a chance to look into it!

Any graphic has to be relatively easy to interpret.  The best allow you to “start easy” and get some initial “aha!”s, and then dig deeper, like some fine piece of art.  It’s OK to challenge and stretch your audience, but the payoff has to be there.  The opposite of this is to have the audience think, “is that it?”.  Or to make them feel dumb (I discuss this in a separate blog post).

It took me a while to realize that the icons (sprites for boats, cars, London double-decker buses, trains, etc.) had no meaning.  When you have something that take up that much room and color, it has to mean something.  It turns out that the LENGTH of the transportation does matter… BUT the location in XY space does not matter.  Or if it does, I can’t figure out the meaning.

Does the location of the person with the “Cost per Commuter” matter?  I dunno.  The # is nice, but there’s no way to compare it across the cities.  Maybe there is… I can’t tell.

Also, I got lost in the 2 colored lines per city.  Sure, most of the transport requires two line in the real world… is that what we’re trying to show?

There’s a lot of info here, and it still draws you in.  But I found it difficult to filter out what was informative and what was just cute.

What’s the “informative to cute” ratio in your graphics?


Now I See It! (The link between visualization and creativity)

We are visual people.  We recall past events by the mental picture we see (or create).  Words are powerful and can be precise, of course, but visual images can often leave very strong and lasting impressions in our minds.

It’s even in the way we describe our understanding of things.  When we say, “I see it!” to describe an idea, this is more than just saying, “I understand what you are saying.”.  We may actually visualize some embodiment of the idea, like someone using the product, walking through a business process, or people faces lighting up as they get their problems resolved.

To be clear, I am not talking about using images or visuals in our presentations or descriptions.  I am quite familiar with business diagrams, process maps, various charts and graphs and other (good and useful) visual tools we have developed over the decades.  These can be helpful, sometimes very helpful (or sometimes not).  Instead, I am talking about the mental work of visualizing something.

So what is the link between visualization and creativity?  In a recent TechCrunch post from Mark Suster, he claims that “all business success relies on creativity”.  He then goes on to describe how he uses visualization to drive creativity.  It’s a long post with one small NSFW element.  It’s also very personal, from a “what has worked for me” approach from Suster.  Other than that, I think it’s a good article.

It’s good because we don’t think much about creativity.  We label something as “creative” and use that terminology post facto, or in preparation of something we do.  But “being creative in something we are doing now” is something that’s relatively difficult if you are out of practice.  So before you draw, write, sort data, open a powerpoint template, even start an outline, maybe we should take a moment and visualize.  Think of what you are asked to do: re-design a business process, look for trends in data, create the world’s most perfect powerpoint page, prepare a weekly report, snuff out competition.  See if visualizing (as described in the TechCrunch post) helps.  It’s free, and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time.  And it gets easier and more productive over time.