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Posts Tagged ‘infographics

“The past is not dead. It is not even past.”*…


 zoomable version here

In 1943, as American businesses tried to guess whether wartime relief from the Depression would translate into postwar prosperity, the Tension Envelope Corporation printed this chart for customers. The infographic folded into a pamphlet and could be displayed on the wall when opened. (The online archive of the Federal Reserve, FRASER, has digitized a PDF of the pamphlet, which you can view here.)

The infographic and the explanatory text below it tap data from several sources, including U.S. Treasury reports, the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Survey of Current Business, and the Committee for Economic Development, a nonprofit founded in 1942 to help American business plan for the postwar future. Excerpted text from a Committee for Economic Development publication, “Business Planning Now for V Day,” can be found in the lower left-hand corner of the chart.

In an explanatory section on the federal debt—represented on the chart as a red line that climbs steeply upward beginning in 1941—the chart’s authors articulate a strong stance on what could be an alarming indicator: “The necessary cost of this war is not important. Victory is worth the price. Whatever the cost to the future citizens is, they will get their money’s worth in benefits derived.”…

From the redoubtable Rebecca Onion: “A Comprehensive 1943 Infographic of American Booms and Busts.”

* William Faulkner


As we reach for the Dramamine, we might recall that it was on this date in 1969 that Chemical Bank installed the first ATM in the U.S. at its branch in Rockville Centre, New York.  In fact, as noted here before, the ATM was imagined (and an early version patented) in 1960 by Luther George Simjian; but a six-month trial of the stand-alone device in 1961 was a failure.  A British version (developed by the banknote company Delarue and deployed by Barclays) debuted in 1967, but required the use of pre-acquired “cheques” for withdrawal.  The Chemical ATM was the first of the breed that is now common: networked machines that communicate with the bank (and its account information) in real time.



Written by LW

September 2, 2015 at 1:01 am

“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties”*…


Ratios of Democrats (blue) vs. Republicans (red). Data source: Campaign contribution data from the FEC.

Just some of the occupations covered in Verdant Labs‘ “Democratic vs. Republican Occupations” (a note on methodology here).

Check ’em out.

* John Adams


As we choose up sides, we might recall that it was in this date in 1914 that Franz Ferdinand, 51 year old heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was assassinated in Sarajevo, then the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovnia, where he was visiting to inspect the Empire’s troops.  A member of the Black Hand nationalist group, Gavrilo Princip, shot and killed both the Crown Prince and his wife as they were being driven through the city.  The assassination– triggering, as it did, competing accusations and the “calling” of interlocking alliances– ignited World War I, which broke out one month later.

Franz Ferdinand


Written by LW

June 28, 2015 at 1:01 am

“I keep saying the sexy job in the next ten years will be statisticians”*…


Nathan Yau, the force behind the fabulous Flowing Data, was lamenting the loss of a classic resource, when he decided to take on the challenge himself:

Ever since I found out about the Statistical Atlas of the United States, historically produced by the Census Bureau, it annoyed me that there wasn’t one in the works for the 2010 Census due to cuts in funding. The last one was for 2000. Actually, the 2000 edition was called the Census Atlas, but whatever. With more data than ever, it seems like there should be one.

Maybe that’s why there’s isn’t one. Too much data, too much of an undertaking, and too many bureaucratic decisions to make.

The first Atlas, by Francis A. Walker, was published in 1874 using the data from the prior 1870 Census. Counting cover, credits, and all that, it was 56 pages.

I got to thinking, hey, I could do that. And if I did, I wouldn’t have to be annoyed anymore. So I recreated the original Statistical Atlas of the United States with current data. I used similar styling, and had one main rule for myself. All the data had to be publicly available and come from government sites

See the stunning– and stunningly useful– results (with larger versions of each chart) at “Reviving the Statistical Atlas of the United States with New Data.”

* “I keep saying the sexy job in the next ten years will be statisticians. People think I’m joking, but who would’ve guessed that computer engineers would’ve been the sexy job of the 1990s?”  – Hal Varian, The McKinsey Quarterly, January 2009


As we discriminate between the median and the mean, we might spare a thought for Sir D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson; he died on this date in 1948.  A classics scholar who was also an accomplished biologist and mathematician, Thompson is best remembered for On Growth and Form (1917, new ed. 1942), a profound consideration of the shapes of living things, starting from the simple premise that “everything is the way it is because it got that way.”  Thus one must study not only finished forms, but also the forces that molded them: “the form of an object is a ‘diagram of forces’, in this sense, at least, that from it we can judge of or deduce the forces that are acting or have acted upon it.”

The book paved the way for the scientific explanation of morphogenesis, the process by which patterns are formed in plants and animals.  Thompson’s description of the mathematical beauty of nature inspired thinkers as diverse as Alan Turing and Claude Levi-Strauss, and artists including Henry Moore, Salvador Dali, and Jackson Pollock.  Peter Medawar, the 1960 Nobel Laureate in Medicine, called On Growth and Form “the finest work of literature in all the annals of science that have been recorded in the English tongue.”



Written by LW

June 21, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it”*…


Cartographer Daniel Huffman has created a series of maps in which American river systems are visualized as subway maps (specifically, in the manner of Harry Beck’s 1930s London Tube maps), with nodes representing connections between streams and tributaries.

Huffman strikes a particular chord in the map-lover’s heart. On an Internet brimming with sleek, sharp geo-visualizations, Huffman’s maps offer a sweetly idiosyncratic view of the world. The signatures of historic figures turn into street vectors. Oregon’s wine country gets the ‘90s computer-game treatment. A simple bike path becomes a work of calligraphy.

“What it really probably comes down to is a desire to do things differently than others,” he says in an email. “I crave variety, and so it often leads me to thinking of weird ideas and saying, ‘I wonder if I can do X[.]’”

Lately, a trend has emerged out of Huffman’s impulses towards novelty—an idea he calls “Modern Naturalism,” in which his maps present natural features in the type of “highly-abstracted, geometrically precise visual language that we often apply to the constructed world on maps,” according to his website

More on Huffman and his marvelous maps at “When Rivers Look Like Subway Systems.”

* Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories


As we hop onto our rafts, we might send healing birthday greetings to Florence Nightingale, born on this date in 1820. Famed for her work as a nurse in the Crimean War, she went on to found training facilities and nursing homes– pioneering both medical training for women and what is now known as Social Entrepreneuring.  Less well-known are Nightingale’s contributions to epidemiology, statistics, and the visual communication of data in the field of public health.  Always good at math, she pioneered the use of the polar area chart (the equivalent to a modern circular histogram or rose diagram) and popularized the pie chart (which had been developed in 1801 by William Playfair).  Nightingale was elected the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society, and later became an honorary member of the American Statistical Association.

“Diagram of the causes of mortality in the army in the East” by Florence Nightingale, an example of the the polar area diagram (AKA, the Nightingale rose diagram)




Written by LW

May 12, 2015 at 1:01 am

“If you want to use television to teach somebody, you must first teach them how to use television”*…


Graph TV is a visualization tool which graphs tv show ratings by episode. Each season is assigned a different color and linear regressions are calculated for each season as well as for the entire series. Each point on the graph displays the episode title, rating, and other data. The data points are clickable and will open its IMDb entry. The graphs are also exportable for offline use…

Make informed viewing choices (with larger versions of the interactive charts) at Kevin Wu‘s Graph TV.

* Umberto Eco


Before we begin to binge, we might spare a thought for comic genius Harold Clayton Lloyd, Sr.; he died on this date in 1971.  While your correspondent marginally prefers the extraordinary Buster Keaton, Lloyd has some real claim to being the finest physical comedian of the silent film era (even as his career extended to talkies and radio).  Like Keaton, Lloyd did his own stunts– many of them, breathtakingly dangerous.  Indeed, after 1919, he appears wearing a prosthetic glove, masking the loss of a thumb and index finger in a bomb explosion at Roach Studios.


Written by LW

March 8, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Gods do not limit men. Men limit men.”*…


Everything has a limit – or does it?…

Some maximums will never be surpassed, but as the author Arthur C Clarke once said, “the only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.”

See a larger version of the graphic above at “Ultimate limits of nature and humanity.”

* Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume


As we bump up against boundaries, we might send compressed birthday greetings to Aaron “Bunny” Lapin; he was born on this date in 1914.  In 1948, Lapin invented Reddi-Wip, the pioneering whipped cream dessert topping dispensed from a spray can.   First sold by milkmen in St. Louis, the product rode the post-World War Two convenience craze to national success; in 1998, it was named by Time one of the century’s “100 great consumer items”– along with the pop-top can and Spam.  Lapin became known as the Whipped Cream King; but his legacy is broader:  in 1955, he patented a special valve to control the flow of Reddi-Wip from the can, and formed The Clayton Corporation to manufacture it.  Reddi-Wip is now a Con-Agra brand; but Clayton goes strong, now making industrial valves, closures, caulk, adhesives and foamed plastic products (like insulation and cushioning materials).




Written by LW

January 5, 2015 at 1:01 am

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time”*…


Benedikt Groß (designer of a cool typeface made up of satellite imagery, among many other nifty things) has created Population.io, a new site (still in Beta) that visualizes a user’s place in the world’s population in a series of elegant tables and charts… including one that estimates the time of the users death (at least loosely– that is, based on average life expectancy where he/she lives).

Locate yourself.

* Mark Twain


As we settle into the global village, we might send speculative birthday greetings to Philip Kindred Dick; he was born on this date in 1928.  A novelist, short story writer, essayist and philosopher, Dick published 44 novels and 121 short stories, nearly all in the Science Fiction genre.  While he was recognized only within his field in his lifetime, and lived near poverty for much of his adult life, eleven popular films have been based on his work since his death in 1982 (including Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, Paycheck, Next, Screamers, The Adjustment Bureau, and Impostor).  In 2005, Time magazine named Ubik one of the hundred greatest English-language novels published since 1923; and in 2007, Dick became the first science fiction writer to be included in The Library of America series.



Written by LW

December 16, 2014 at 1:01 am


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