Tag Archives: visualization

Hailpixel’s colour tool

Picking up where I have left, I have a nice addition to my collection of colour tools for visualisation expertshttp://color.hailpixel.com

What you see below is the whole interface, when you open the website by Devin Hunt.


Choosing colours is easy as pie: Move your mouse pointer around and the area changes its colour. Once you like what you see, click, and the colour will be saved to a part in the browser window, together with its hex code. In the remaining area you can continue to create new colours until you’re satisfied with your palette. Colours can also be selectively deleted again and the URL of the page keeps track of your palette and allows for easy sharing (and, if you will, “export” of the colour values).

These are too many words, best enjoy the simplicity of http://color.hailpixel.com yourself! (Also, visit that frontpage and pull on the thread!)

Colour me well-informed

When designing a map or a visualisation, sooner or later there is the point where you have to choose a range of colours (except in very specific circumstances which may require you to produce a black-and-white or greyscale visualisation). What is there to consider in such a situation?


Appropriate use of colours

According to Bertin‘s (1918–2010) seminal work, Semiologie Graphique, colour (defined as hue with constant value) as a visual variable is both selective and associative. These mean, respectively, that an object with slightly differing hue can be selected with ease out of a group of objects and that objects with identical colour but differing values for other visual variables (e.g., in the case of shape as the other variable: a red circle, a red square and a red triangle) can easily be grouped mentally. Continue reading

Flickr as a vehicle of narrative: photos contextualised in space and time

After my project proposal had been accepted, I have attended a workshop at ETH Zurich, titled “Cartography & Narratives” organised by Barbara Piatte, Sébastien Caquard and Anne-Kathrin Reuschel in last summer. The goal of the workshop was to explore “mapping as a conceptual framework to improve our understating of narratives”. Narratives are

“an expression in discourse of a distinct mode of experiencing and thinking about the world, its structures, and its processes“ (White 2010)


any cultural artefact that ‘tells a story’ (Bal 2009)

I decided to investigate the photo-sharing platform Flickr as vehicle of narratives (think: the slide show of pictures from a trip, be it directly on the camera’s screen or as an image projected onto your living room wall, as one of arguably the most ubiquitous types of every day narrative).

I have uploaded a preliminary result of my workshop paper on Vimeo (view it large, for good quality):

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/56999213 w=600]


The movie shows the temporal and spatial patterns that emerge, when we conflate 80’000+ images taken by 4’000 photographers over the course of several years in the city of Zurich, Switzerland (I only looked at georeferenced photographs). See the description of the video on Vimeo for full information.

I will post more about the workshop results and further work, shortly.

James Bond(s), quantified

The Economist compares the average of Martinis, romantic involvements and kills per Bond movie per actor:

How the Bonds stack up against each other (Source: The Economist)

The various Bonds fare quite differently in the three departments. I wonder if the increased Martini intake of Daniel Craig’s Bond is a consequence of the more somber style of the recent films with a Bond full of self-doubt or indicative of the Craig-era fincancial woes of the MGM empire (think product placement)?

Sad map: Conflicts of humankind

The Dutch web development Studio TecToys built http://www.conflicthistory.com, a map and timeline of all important human conflicts. The base data for the visualization comes from Freebase and is enriched with Wikipedia content. The timeline lets you slice the data at adjustable interval widths. I’m not sure, just how exhaustive and geographically un-biased the coverage of the data is, it certainly looks impressive on the map. Naturally, the geographic scope of the conflicts on the map varies also with the world regions known to humankind at a given time.

From geographic and conflict research literature I know that people try to link violent conflicts to the presence of certain social and environmental factors, the latter being much more easily measured, usually. I faintly remember reading an article that linked the likelihood of guerilla activity to the topography of a region. Maybe some of these models are a bit too simplistic at times, but nevertheless I’d be interested to explore the data of such a study in a form similar to Conflict History.

(via information aesthetics)

Potential for improvement: Font legibility in cars

Researchers from MIT AgeLab and a typeface design company have investigated, how font readability of digital menus on a 7 inch display affects glance times of drivers, that is the time the drivers had their eyes on the display rather than on the (simulated!) road. Glance times were measured using an eye-tracking system. The experiment employed the following two fonts:

Font legibility

With 82 participants at various ages it was found that glance time for the lower font in above depiction was reduced by about 10% for men, but not at all for women. (One of the researchers hypothesises that may have to do with how women process information or interact with the technology used in the experiment).

Depending on the speed those 10% may make a significant difference in an actual dangerous traffic scenario. Hopefully, the car manufacturers see enough branding and emotional potential in super-legible fonts.

Related and worth checking out: Some weeks ago infovis experts have discussed speedometer design here and here.

(via Popsci)

Swiss population density versus that of cities

The Swiss population has grown more or less steadily over the last decades:

With a current growth of about 1%, the Federal Statistics Office has forecast that Switzerland should have welcomed the 8 millionth inhabitant at some point this summer (jeez, I remember learning at school that Switzerland has 6.5 mio. inhabitants – you can check above where that puts me on the graph).

Now, Switzerland as a country is relatively heterogeneous, topographically speaking, with the Alps in the south. So it would be hard to spread out built-up areas evenly:

Yet, as an experiment I have taken data about some well-known, diverse, international cities and have computed the area that would be needed to house the entire Swiss population of 8 millions (give or take) at the cities’ population densities. Lo and behold, how compact, in fact, Switzerland could be (if we only wanted hard enough;  or click here for a pdf in A3 format or here for a bigger graphic:

Switzerland as a City State?“: How big an area would be needed to house the population of Switzerland, at population densities of various cities around the world (click to view high-resolution image)