Make a data viz about a data viz. Designer Anna Vital’s interactive graphic, called the Visualization Universe, uses 10000 data points to show how things have varied in the last 12 months, based on how many people have searched for the graphics on Google.
Among others it is an intriguing way to look how the 2016 election worked out to be. It was seen that during the months leading up to the election there was a noticeable bump in the number of searches for the image as people wanted to know some information through the data.
The Visualization Universe is part of a bigger project from Google News Lab, which creates tools for journalist to use. Since the beginning of 2016, the lab has been asking designers to make changes in the visualization as they see required from the Google Trend data. The only features they ask from this data is that it be interesting, technology oriented, mobile and innovative.
Vitals projects are organized in a way that makes it easy to search for by name, search interest, and change in search interest, the different charts, books can be searched, the last one reveals what is growing the most in popularity. The line below each image show the relative changes in a simple line graph. That’s a particularly relevant area to delve into, because it shows how tastes in data viz are sharing.
“There’s been a massive boom in visualizing data. Now that boom is maturing we’re a lot more informed,” says Simon Rogers, the data editor at the Google News Lab who previously worked at the Guardian doing data journalism. “We’re not overwhelmed by pretty pictures anymore. It’s very much about conveying info. We thought we’d looked at the ways people look at data using Google Trends as a proxy.”
The 2016 Elections was part of the reckoning, as mostly none of the major data pointed or predicted the results of the election. This was partly a data problem and partly a visualization problem. Many data experts made overly cutest interpretation of the graph that skewed the narrative or simply did not allow for more open ended interpretation. As my colleague Mark Wilson wrote last November, “The best data publications in the world ultimately catered to our need for simplified narratives to the point that even lauded data designers got lost inside it all.”
It wasn’t unknown to us that Vital’s visualizations show interest in fairly straightforward charts growing over time- particularly cartograms, timelines, treemaps, and word clouds. These are different visualizations which are too difficult to interpret. It is not clear whether it was all due to the data visualization due to the election, but Rogers acknowledges that the election undoubtedly led to a high interest in all types of data visualization.”
There has been a rise in the use of cartograms, abstract maps of statistical information, especially points to how data viz designers were trying to understand the nuances country’s politics. “It’s not just a state by state map,” he says. “You can’t show that anymore. You want to show things in a more representative way.”