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Are you ready for the biggest information explosion in history?
If you don't know by now, the Internet of Things (IoT) is going to take the world by storm in the coming years. A system of interconnected physical devices, IoT will enable humans, animals and man-made objects to transmit data over a network through biochip implants, built-in sensors or any other thing that can be assigned an IP address.
This means that we will soon have more real-time data at our disposal than ever before. In fact, the amount of information in the universe is expected to grow 10-fold by 2020.
What are we to do with so much information? The simple answer is that we have to get better at visualizing information in the form of data visualizations and infographics.
While there's a lot of debate concerning the difference between the two, infographics are usually static and are designed to communicate predetermined conclusions. You can learn more about them by checking out the free resource above. Data visualizations, on the other hand, are interactive and exploratory, allowing users to visualize original data sets in order to draw their own conclusions.
To inspire you on your journey to becoming a better visual communicator through interactive data visualizations, we've compiled a list of some of the best information graphics of 2016. Here they are in no particular order.
(Click on the source caption to the right of the image to view the original visualization.)
This year’s election stirred up quite a lot of voters, with candidates on all sides rubbing them the wrong way. Naturally, with a debate this heated, media sites saw the need to contribute to the conversation through interactive information graphics.
This article by the New York Times lists several different candidates and creates compelling visuals that link their campaigns to previous ones.
Each visual contains several different-sized dots that represent a specific campaign, administration, or other governmental organization related to the candidate’s current campaign, which are then connected by arrows.
Hovering over a specific dot highlights the connections between the groups. The visual is a great way to put what would otherwise be a long slog through years of information into an easily accessible, easily viewable format so that voters can figure out where the candidates’ experiences lie.
Let’s be honest: most people are nervous about the idea of the government observing them. Of course, most people also don’t assume they’re constantly being watched, even if government surveillance—through government aircraft—is a regular occurrence.
Peter Aldhous and Charles Seife provide a visualization to highlight just how common this practice is.
The map is filled with red and blue lines (representing FBI and DHS aircraft, respectively) which illustrate the flight paths of the planes. When planes circle an area more than once, the circles become darker. The circles change in accordance to day and time, and individual cities can be typed into a search bar to see the flight patterns over them.
The visualization, rather creatively, almost looks like a hand-drawn map. While presenting a normally uncomfortable topic, this allows individuals to check things for themselves, hopefully providing some peace of mind.
Language shapes the way we view the world. Different languages may have vastly different ways of describing things—including color.
Muyueh Lee takes this idea and expands upon it, examining the differences in describing color in Chinese and English through a helpful visualization.
The visualization spans a webpage. As you scroll down, the text changes, as do many colored dots that move over the white background. The dots are used to represent not only each colors’ hue, but the numbers that fall into each category—for example, what colors are the most popular “base” colors for English and Chinese.
The continuous flow of this visualization helps really bring it together, allowing users to scroll through the information at their own pace, but also creating a seamless, creative work.
We often wonder how we compare to other people and sometimes we wonder if we fall into what’s "normal" for our age group, gender, or other similar grouping. A visualization by Nathan Yau allows you to get something of an idea.
The visual lists several categories along one side of a graph—such as "personal care" and "work"—with a line illustrating the amount of time the average person in a certain demographic spends on each subject. Entering different statistics at the top—such as changing gender or age—causes the lines to shift to feature that demographic.
The simplicity of this visualization really helps the information get across and avoids bogging down the statistics. Sometimes, less is more.
We’ve all, at one point in our lives, dreamed of owning our own place—perhaps we’re still looking. Budget can be a major factor in what type of living space would be better for a given individual.
Mike Bostock, Shan Carter, and Archie Tse created a budget calculator to help prospective homeowners know whether it’ll be better for them to rent a place or own it outright.
The calculator includes several sloping charts. Each chart includes a factor that’ll affect how much you’ll have to pay, such as the individual cost of your home and your mortgage rates. A movable scale along the bottom of each chart allows you to enter different data, changing the “cost of rent per month” on the side. If you can find a similar house to rent for that much per month or less, it’s more cost effective to just rent the home.
This visualization is incredibly thorough and a useful tool for homeowners of any age and status.
Anyone with a science background—or scientific job in general—will enjoy this one. The Gene Slider allows you to isolate specific strands of DNA and the components that make them.
The visuals for each DNA strand contain the letters of the proteins that make up DNA. Clicking on one allows you to see various statistics about that component, such as its placement and weight. You can enter your own strand to examine, or look at some of the samples from the page, which can aid both students and professionals in their work. It makes it simple to find the desired data on any particular piece of DNA.
“Based on a true story” is one of Hollywood’s favorite lines, but it makes for very gray areas between what is actually true and what is fabricated for dramatic value. David McCandless, Stephanie Smith, and Omid Kashan decided to examine just how accurate some of those claims were.
The visualization focuses on a few different films “based on a true story” and lays out a color-coded bar for different sections of the movie: Dark pink is false, dark blue is true, and the paler of those two colors are mostly false and mostly true, respectively. Clicking on different parts of the bar give the time stamp, as well as what happened in the movie compared to what happened in reality. You can also change how the time stamps are viewed for you convenience.
While informative, this visualization is also incredibly fun and a film-buff’s dream. Anyone interested in how these real stories are translated into movie format should definitely check this visualization out.
The best information graphics allow you to explore new worlds and unknown realities. This amazing visualization takes you as deep into space as you can get from the comfort of your home.
100,000 Stars allows you to explore our solar system and many beyond. The visualization, much like its title suggests, shows countless stars. You can zoom in and out to view more or less, and clicking on the stars gives you ample information on each. The site also offers a “tour,” taking you through some fantastic visuals while giving information about space and the stars within.
While 3D has been steadily gaining popularity, this visualization shows just how amazing it can be when applied correctly. Moving through the spinning stars as they warp past you combines beauty and functionality, and can be surprisingly addicting.
We’re constantly importing and exporting products. Naturally, that means having a map that shows who’s shipping to where could be quite useful.
Max Galka created this world map with his tool Blueshift to visualize the trade of global goods, such as food and clothing. The dots stem from one country and flow to others, showing which goods the country specializes in and what other countries buy from them. Clicking on individual countries shows their exports and imports.
The bright colors on the dark background help the visual’s clarity, and also provides some interesting information on what items come from where. The movable globe also provides a rather stunning visual.
Strange title aside, this information graphic gives some particularly interesting data: It displays your age and compares it to the ages of famous individuals and what they accomplished at that particular point in their lives.
David McCandless shows us a screen to input data on our birthday which, after calculating age, places us on a graph with various figures according to age. Our bubble is at the age we are now; other bubbles surround ours, filled with names and placed at specific ages. Clicking on the bubbles show what the individuals accomplished at that age.
This visualization, in a lot of ways, can provide a surprising amount of encouragement. Seeing that there are quite a few legends who didn’t complete their greatest works until later in life can remind us there’s still a lot of time to leave our mark, no matter our age.
The best information graphics always put data into context. This visualization by David McCandless, Miriam Quick, and Fabio Bergamaschi only emphasizes how horrifying war can be by providing a point of reference and placing events into historical context.
The visualization contains dots representing several major conflicts. Hovering over the dots gives some brief information on the conflict, as well as the deaths per hour and total deaths. The chart can be organized in several different ways depending on how you want to view the information.
This visualization’s goal is to hammer in a message with simple facts, and it does it brilliantly—not by providing a structured argument, but by stating the facts and letting them speak for themselves.
Millions of people have immigrated to the United States over the years, and Max Galka gives us a visualization that helps show from where.
The map shows colored dots flying over a black surface, with each dot representing about 10,000 people. The dots fly from their country of origin to the United States while a timeline at the bottom gradually moves forward. The timeline can be manually moved to see different times in history. A tracker on the left indicates what countries sent the most people to the U.S. at what times.
Much like “The Flow of International Trade,” the bright colors and dark background help the information stand out. This map is a bit simpler, but perhaps that’s all it needs. For those interested in history, it’s interesting to look at the trends.
Who doesn’t love music? Stephen LaPorte and Mahmoud Hashemi take this love and run with it with “Listen to Wikipedia.”
The information graphic illustrates what articles are being edited in real time. Dots flash and fade on the screen when an article is edited, with each dot being a link to that edit’s log. More interestingly, however, a musical note plays with each dot that appears, creating a constant, ever-changing melody.
Not only is this idea creative, it’s addicting. The music makes you want to stay around longer to listen to what strange melodies may be made, as well as helping you focus on the specific dots that made each sound. This combination of sound and visuals can also help you remember which dot made which noise.
Nathan Yau provides probably the most colorful visualization on this list. The visual does exactly as the title implies, containing bright sections that indicate what amount of people at each age are single/never married, married, separated/divorced, or widowed. Viewers can toggle between male and female statistics for comparison.
More than anything, this visualization shows how useful bright colors can be in drawing attention. The friendly colors help lighten a serious subject as well as catching the eye.
This information graphic takes a rather common commodity in modern life and helps us examine it in a different way.
The “Tweet Map” is a world map that shows what countries tweet about what subjects, and it what quantity. A search bar at the top allows users to look for specific keywords and hashtags, while the chart at the bottom allows users to visualize peaks and valleys for Twitter activity.
Being able to see what others tweet about and in what areas can be great for data, and as a visual, it’s useful in that it takes an everyday occurrence and makes it interesting.
Which of these do you think are the best information graphics of the year?
If you have a favorite data visualization of your own, leave a comment and let us know, or try creating your own information graphic using this free online infographic tool to see if you can top some of these on our list.
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