Data visualisation, once a relatively obscure field, has now risen to ubiquity in the realms of business intelligence and data journalism. All those infographics you see? Data visualisation in action. And there are plenty of ways to present insights effectively and beautifully, and there are tonnes of blogs creating and analyzing visualisations every day. Turn to these sites for inspiration, key information or just some cool facts!
Run by: Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic
Website link: StorytellingWithData.com
Data visualisation exists, in large part, to help create a compelling narrative. Best known for her book of the same name, Storytelling With Data’s Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic takes a deep, storytelling-based approach to data visualisation. She engages the site’s regular users with monthly visualisation challenges and offers critiques and tutorials to move her community further toward mastery.
Use the #SWDchallenge hashtag on Twitter to view all the latest challenge participants and check out Knaflic’s roundup of the submitted graphs at the end of each challenge.
Run by: David McCandless
Website link: InformationIsBeautiful.net
Rather than limit data to dull functionality, Information is Beautiful’s David McCandless uses his blog to present bespoke projects with a bright, minimalist design palette. For McCandless, current events and tasty trivia tidbits alike are opportunities to showcase creative data visualisation projects.
Highly accessible subjects and a clean, simple design make data visualisations like the Best in Show dog data chart one of McCandless’ most beloved visualisations. It’s a great example of the symbiotic relationship between data and design: Colours, shapes and sizes convey a host of information without taking much space or overwhelming the reader.
3. Flowing Data
Run by: Nathan Yau
Website link: FlowingData.com
Flowing Data explores our understanding of data and how it affects us in everyday life. The blog’s founder, statistician Nathan Yau, renders data visualisation lingual: an ongoing conversation between subject and creator.
Billed as the “results of a restless mind late at night”, Yau’s most compelling projects yield brilliant visualisations from relatively mundane, even random, information. Have you ever considered how your career path might impact your choice of romantic partner? No? Well, here’s a demonstration of predictive matchmaking based on occupational data. For the economist/fast-foodie, one map charts Subway’s growing domination of the US sandwich market. And if hoagies aren’t your speed, Flowing Data has your pizza, burger and coffee cravings covered with similar vigour. Curiosity, rather than conformity is Flowing Data’s raison d’etre.
Run by: Andy Kirk
Website link: VisualisingData.com
Founder and managing editor Andy Kirk has created Visualising Data an an encyclopedia for the data visualisation world, complete with resources, examples, discussion forums and even a friendly community of industry professionals. Fittingly, data visualisation is built into the site’s design, with the homepage featuring a delightful bubble display highlighting popular posts.
Beyond the compelling one-off content, Visualising Data’s recurring posts also stand out:
- Best of data visualisation: Monthly posts featuring the best data visualisation content, and a twice-yearly review of the most significant developments in data visualisation.
- Articles: Published twice a month, articles discuss visualisation design and often include interviews with data-visualisation professionals.
- The little of visualisation design: These articles focus on the small distinct design choices that significantly affect visualisation.
5. Junk Charts
Run by: Kaiser Fung
Website link: JunkCharts.typepad.com
Junk Charts dissects the inadequacies of various data visualisations and offers detailed constructive criticisms and technique breakdowns. From sketchy data sources to problematic colour palettes and misapplied graph types, author Kaiser Fung discusses what doesn’t work and, importantly, how it could be done better.
At the end of each critique, Fung offers a suitable replacement for the data graphic, helpfully incorporating his suggestions so readers can see what best practices look like in practice. While posts appear multiple times weekly, Pi Day (March 14) gets special attention every year when Fung and a colleague hunt down one unlucky graph to sacrifice towards the #onelesspie campaign against pie chart proliferation.
6. The Pudding
Run by: Matt Daniels
Website link: Pudding.cool
The Pudding produces creative, interaction-focused visual essays. By combining data journalism, visualisation and web engineering, The Pudding takes an experimental and highly custom approach to visualising cultural discussions. This is a great website to peek at how the boundaries of web-based data visualisation are being stretched and played with.
The journalist-engineers of The Pudding also document their own tools and methods in a growing series of how-to articles for everyone to learn from. The posts are accessible and fun, and they don’t shy away from the nitty-gritty code.
7. The Atlas
Run by: Quartz Media
Website link: TheAtlas.com
Less of a blog and more of a repository, The Atlas is a hub for all of Quartz’s interesting charts and graphs – with a distinctly simple, searchable and mobile-friendly focus. You won’t find complex data visualisations; instead, you’ll find restrained and pointed visualisations that investigate a single point of interest. If a huge and complex dashboard is a book, then an Atlas visualisation is a carefully worded paragraph. These are visualisations that are intended to slot into Quartz’s online articles and are easy to embed into any website.
Of interest, The Atlas provides downloadable data for most visualisations and includes embed stats, which allows you to track where each visualisation has been embedded and used elsewhere on the internet.
Run by: The Economist
Website link: Graphic Detail
Want to see the world through The Economist’s eyes? Graphic Detail is the award-winning magazine’s data visualisation blog. Every weekday, you’ll find an insightful new chart, map or infographic that delves into the macro and micro mechanisms shaping global events. Each visualisation comes with a quick written analysis that includes details about the datasource used.
If you’re interested in politics or economics, or just want inspiration or a few extra talking points at happy hour, Graphic Detail offers a daily destination.
Government websites might not be the most obvious pick, and aren’t strictly blogs – plus, “Federal bureaucracy” and “hip, useful data visualisation” aren’t exactly synonymous. That said, the US Census Bureau and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are such data-visualisation nuts that their .gov sites both boast extensive subsections on the topic with regular updates.
The Census site is especially handy. Updated weekly, the department’s data visualisation gallery features an absolute trove of demographic information. But don’t resign yourself to historical population trends and totals: there’s an expansion in the works that would include household and family dynamics, migration and geographic mobility, and economic indicators. If you’re interested in digging deeper, you can check out the Census source data, view Census survey information and explore an API. Similarly, FEMA’s dedicated section is loaded with interactive and comprehensive graphics detailing everything from declarations of emergency and fire incidents to disaster housing assistance and historical flood data.
10. Tableau Blog
Run by: Tableau
Website link: Tableau.com/blog
Well, we weren’t NOT going to include our own blog, right? Besides providing insight into our constantly updated product offerings and company culture, the Tableau blog hosts a wealth of examples, inspiration, tips & tricks, community highlights, and stories about the social impact of data. Be sure to catch the weekly “Best of the Tableau Web” column for Tableau-specific data visualisations, tips and stories.
Honourable mention: FiveThirtyEight
While ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight is not a blog, and doesn’t exclusively post data visualisations, it’s worth highlighting on this list. FiveThirtyEight is a data journalism outlet that produces visualisations and interactive visual models, and consistently posts detailed dataset documentation on Github. Of particular note are the interactive political visualisations, which covers things like modelling the 2016 US election data and aggregating presidential approval ratings.
Honourable mention: Viz.WTF and r/DataIsUgly
If there are good and great data visualisations, that means there are bad and worse visualisations too. Viz.WTF and the Reddit community r/DataIsUgly are lighthearted collections of the wackiest abuses, misuses and not-quite-best-practice data visualisations that exist out on the Internet. From mis-sized bar charts to pie charts that don’t add up to 100%, these are the best of the worst and are a fun way to waste some time while your data extracts. Unlike Junk Charts (above), however, these two are more focused on getting laughs than offering constructive criticism.