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Posts Tagged ‘graphics

“There are three types of lies — lies, damn lies, and statistics”*…

 

In today’s world, we are constantly bombarded with averages and medians: the average temperature in New York in April is 52 degrees; Stephen Curry averages 30 points per game; the median household income in the United States is $51,939

But the concept of taking many different measurements and representing them with one best number is a relatively recent invention. In fact, there are no historical examples of the average or median being used in this manner prior to the 17th Century.

So how did the concept of averages and medians develop? And how did the average triumph as the measurement of our times?  The supremacy of the average over the median has had profound consequences about how we understand data. In many cases, it has led us astray…

More at “How the Average Triumphed Over the Median.”

* Benjamin Disraeli

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As we average it out, we might recall that it was on this date in 1913 that employees of the City of New York held a “Parade of Statistical Graphics,” replete with large graphs on horse-drawn floats, and a photograph with people arranged in a bell-shaped curve.  The crowd’s favorite was the float devoted to the decline in death rate due to improvements in sanitation and nursing.

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Written by LW

May 17, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Make things as simple as possible but no simpler”*…

 

Botticelli, “The Birth of Venus”

 

Posters promoting the Masters and their masterpieces:  From Sydney-based designer Nicholas Barclay, a ten classic works of art, reduced to their essences…

Peruse each of them (about half-way down the page), and check out his other distillations, on Barclay’s site .

* Albert Einstein

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As we wonder what the docent will make of these, we might recall it it was on this date in 1979 that The Clash played the Harvard Square Theater on the first leg of their first American tour, “Pearl Harbor ’79.”

The band, backstage, with their idol (and opening act on the tour), Bo Diddley

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Written by LW

February 17, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Data is the new oil? No: Data is the new soil”*…

 

Eleanor Lutz, a designer in Seattle with a Bachelor’s degree in molecular biology from the University of Washington (where her research was in teaching mosquitoes to fly through mazes), has turned her talents to scientific visualization.  Her wonderful site, Tabletop Whale, features a weekly animated GIF illustrating both the principles and the beauty of a scientific phenomenon.

Watch them move: more (and larger) animated GIFs at Tabletop Whale.

[via Visual News; TotH to Erik Kuhne]

* David McCandless

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As we wonder at the working of the world around us, we might recall that it was on this date in 1810 that Crown Prince Ludwig (later to become King Ludwig I) invited the citizens of Munich to help celebrate his marriage to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen with horse races and a feast lubricated liberally by beer. The festivities were held on the fields in front of the city gates, named Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s meadow”) in honor of the Crown Princess, although the locals have since abbreviated the name simply to the “Wiesn.”  The event was such a success that the Crown Prince decided to repeat it the following year– and so the tradition of Ocktoberfest was born.  The current version of celebration begins in late September and runs through the first Sunday in October, and involves the serving of over 1 million gallons of beer.

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Written by LW

October 12, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Illusion is the first of all pleasures”*…

 

Not sure where this is from, but feel that tingle in the back of your head? That’s the feeling of your mind blowing up.

FlowingData.com

* Voltaire

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As we dwell on duality, we might recall that it was on this date in 1920 that Mary Roberts Reinhart’s The Bat opened at the Morosco Theatre in New York.

Reinhart, often called “the American Agatha Christie,” invented the “Had-I-But-Known” school of mystery writing; and while she never actually seems to have written it, is widely-credited with the phrase “the butler did it.”  The Bat was one of her successes: it ran for over two years, was revived twice, novelized (see below), filmed three times… and perhaps as importantly, was cited (in one of its film adaptations) by Bob Kane as an inspiration for his creation, Batman.

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Written by LW

August 23, 2014 at 1:01 am

“You are the music while the music lasts”*…

 

A beloved album can turn into a sonic home of sorts, and provide a measure of comfort that trumps an actual living space. Now we have a mash-up of both: In his new illustration series, “Archimusic,” Barcelona-based designer Federico Babina has designed homes that embody the sensibility and tone of 27 musicians and their biggest hits. Among these sonic fortresses–which range from sleekly designed small-scale homes to colorful and funkier buildings that could be apartments, institutional homes, or symphony halls–are Miles Davis’s So What, Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, and David Bowie’s Space Oddity

Babina appears to be no slacker when it comes to hard thinking about the ways in which design and music mesh. “Both music and architecture are generated by an underlying code, an order revealed by mathematics and geometry,” Babina says in his artist statement. He describes the series as an exercise in “listening to architecture,” interpreting its musicality and rhythm, and representing the structural, visual qualities of music. He explored whether “the music is horizontal, vertical or oblique,” whether “sound leans firmly on the ground or if it touches on tiptoe,” and whether “it’s made of contrasting colors or tones that change gradually.”…

See more of his work at his site and here (where one can also buy prints); read more at “27 Musicians And Their Hits Reimagined As Buildings.”

* T.S. Eliot

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As we’re grateful that music can Gimme Shelter, we might recall that it was on this date in 1868, at the Königliches Hof-und National-Theater in Munich, that Richard Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg premiered.  At four and a half hours, it’s one of the longest operas performed in modern times; and it is unusual in Wagner’s oeuvre both because it is a comedy (the only one among his mature works) and because it isn’t driven by mythological or supernatural themes.  The premiere was sponsored by Ludwig II of Bavaria and conducted Hans von Bülow.  Franz Strauss, the father of composer Richard Strauss played the French horn at the premiere– despite his often-expressed dislike of Wagner, who was present at many of the rehearsals.

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Written by LW

June 21, 2014 at 1:01 am

“When I was shown the charts and diagrams… How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick”*…

 

How meta is this?!  An infographic on infographics

 

* When I heard the learn’d astronomer,

When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,

When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,

When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,

How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,

Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,

In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,

Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

Walt Whitman

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As we ponder pictograms, we might spare a grateful thought for the man who wrote the book on perspective, Leon Battista Alberti; he died on this date in 1472.  The archetypical Renaissance humanist polymath, Alberti was an author, artist, architect, poet, priest, linguist, philosopher, cartographer, and cryptographer.  He collaborated with Toscanelli on the maps used by Columbus on his first voyage, and he published the the first book on cryptography that contained a frequency table.

But he is surely best remembered as the author of the first general treatise– Della Pictura (1434)– on the the laws of perspective, which built on and extended Brunelleschi’s work to describe the approach and technique that established the science of projective geometry… and fueled the progress of painting, sculpture, and architecture from the Greek- and Arabic-influenced formalism of the High Middle Ages to the more naturalistic (and Latinate) styles of Renaissance.

from Leon Battista Alberti, Della Pictura

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Written by LW

April 25, 2014 at 1:01 am

“A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce, or a tragedy, or perhaps both”*…

 

The U.S. Census has long been a lightning rod for controversy. Does it wildly undercount minorities? Wildly overcount minorities? Or—as Michelle Bachmann warned us—is it a liberal plot orchestrated by ACORN?

But no one has ever accused our Census Bureau of being a hotbed of…graphic design. Until now.

A Handsome Atlas celebrates Uncle Sam’s data chops by reproducing three Statistical Atlases from the latter decades of the 19th century…

It’s the work of Jonathan Soma, cofounder of the Brooklyn Brainery and stat freak (tracker of everything from Tokyo breakfast habits to bike lanes)… and it’s fascinating.

… you can follow the decline of Charleston, South Carolina, after the Civil War and the sudden ascendency of Milwaukee following the arrival of Miller, Pabst, Schlitz, and Blatz.

Curious footnotes in American history pop up everywhere, as Soma discovered when he spotted an apparent flaw in a U.S. map. “Where Oklahoma should be, we had I.T.,” he says. “It turns out it was Indian Territory.  In 1905 the Native Americans who lived there applied for statehood. They wanted to create something called the State of Sequoia. But they were shot down, and two years later Oklahoma was made.”

Together the Atlases show a country emerging from crisis to redefine itself: more urban, diverse, and if you lived in Illinois or Kentucky, substantially more wasted [as illustrated in the chart above]…

The first Statistical Atlas of the United States of America was published in 1874 to coincide with the nation’s centennial. Two of the most stunning Atlases, from 1880 and 1890, were produced by Henry Gannett, who went on to co-found the National Geographic Society. His final Atlas even contains intimations of the Information Age. The 1890 census was the first to use a punch-card tabulating machine devised by Henry Hollerith, whose company would form the foundation of IBM…

In one regard the census has changed dramatically. While the 2000 Census broke down race into 63 categories, a century earlier we came in only five “colors.” The language of these Atlases oozes xenophobia. Maps and charts refer to “natives” and “non-natives.” Non–European Americans are lumped in as “other foreign.” And slave populations are often omitted altogether.

Then there are the “deaf mutes, paupers, and prisoners,” gathered under the heading: “Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Classes.” Or this antiquated guide to the “insane” of 1870. I mean, who would be insensitive enough to call for a national database of the mentally ill these days?

Read the whole colorful story in Jeffrey Rotter‘s “The Motley Roots of Data Visualization in 19th Century Census Charts.”

* James Madison

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As we regret that we haven’t got more fingers and toes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1789 that George Washington became the first and only president to be unanimously elected by the Electoral College, a feat he repeated on the same date in 1792.

Washington’s overwhelming popularity made for a relatively smooth kick-off for the Republic.  Still, the electoral system soon began to cause problems.  History.com explains:

The peculiarities of early American voting procedure meant that although Washington won unanimous election, he still had a runner-up, John Adams, who served as vice president during both of Washington’s terms. Electors in what is now called the Electoral College named two choices for president. They each cast two ballots without noting a distinction between their choice for president and vice president. Washington was chosen by all of the electors and therefore is considered to have been unanimously elected. Of those also named on the electors’ ballots, Adams had the most votes and became vice president.

Although Washington’s overwhelming popularity prevented problems in 1789 and 1792, this procedure caused great difficulty in the elections of 1796 and 1800. In 1796, Federalist supporters of John Adams cast only one of their two votes in an effort to ensure that Adams would win the presidency without giving votes to any of the other candidates. This led to a situation in which the Federalist Adams won the highest number of votes and became president, but Thomas Jefferson, the opposing Democratic-Republican candidate, came in second and therefore became his opponent’s vice president.

In 1800, the system led to a tie between the Democratic-Republican candidates for president and vice president, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. This sent the vote to the House of Representatives, where Federalists voted for Burr instead of Jefferson, whom they despised. As a result, the Congressional vote ended in a tie 35 times before the Federalists decided to hand in blank ballots and concede the White House to Jefferson.

In 1804, the 12th Amendment to the Constitution ended this particular form of electoral chaos by stipulating that separate votes be cast for president and vice president.

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