Andy Kirk | Visualising Data

The Visualising Data Newsletter - Issue #3, April 2024

Published 26 days ago • 12 min read

Welcome to the 3rd issue of the 'Visualising Data Newsletter' chronicling the most insightful and delightful data viz content every month, straight to your inbox.

For those of you new to this, in each monthly issue I collect, curate, then send you a selection of links to 50 of the best, most interesting, most zeitgeist-y, or thought-provoking data visualisation-related content I've encountered during the previous month. This issue's collection is published in April 2024 relating to new content I saw published during March as well as a few older things I might have come across that month too.

To accommodate those people interested in the content but impeded technically from receiving it in email form, links to the web versions of each issue will be published on my website's 'Newsletter' page two weeks after each issue is distributed first via email. This page will act as an ongoing archive of the collection of issues.

Thanks again for following these updates, I hope you continue to find it a useful resource for anyone and everyone working in dataviz.

See you same time, same place, in May.



The freshest data visualisation (or related) design pieces and collections.

1. Full Of Themselves: An analysis of title drops in movies | Dominikus Baur & Alice Thudt

One of my absolute favourite projects, this is a curiosity I've shared for years and so I'm delighted Dominikus and Alice pursued it and did it with such amazing flair. A 'title drop' is when a character in a movie says the title of the movie they're in, this project analyses 73,921 movies from the last 80 years to show how often and when this happens (or doesn't).

2. You're not crazy. Spring is getting earlier. Find out how its changed in your town | Washington Post

Harry Stevens supplements anecdotal evidence with the formal data evidence to show (beautifully, as always) how the Spring season is changing across the US.

3. OpenAI's GPT is a recruiter's dream tool. Tests show there's racial bias | Bloomberg

The title speaks for itself, this is a really important and superbly well-designed (in method and in presentation) project from Leon Yin, Davey Alba and Leonardo Nicoletti.

4. The incredible shrinking Salton Sea | Rachel Binx

Such as smart way to gather and use data. Rachel tracks the receding shoreline of the Salton Sea, combining data from a 2007 survey alongside 2023 and 2024 shoreline data as collected by an ultramarathon runner who 'circles the shoreline annually to track each year's decline'.

5. Common age differences, married couples | Flowing Data

'Through pop culture, it sometimes seems like it’s common for there to be a wide age difference between spouses. How common are the age gaps, really?'

6. How a fraction of voters decide who runs Texas | The Texas Tribune

'Election years are supposed to be the time for democracy to shine....but in Texas, who’ll run the state is usually decided in the spring. And it’s a much smaller share of people who participate in those elections.'

7. Models all the way down | Knowing Machines

'The AI field’s goal is nothing less than to transform the world. But what are the foundations upon which this transformation is built?' Jer Thorp and Christo Buschek investigate LAION-5B, the only open-source foundation dataset currently available.

8. Opinion: Why giving roses on Valentine’s Day — or any day — is really a bad idea | Washington Post

'Honestly, roses aren't that great. They're also terrible for the planet.' I love this scrollytelling piece from Amanda Shendruk with ace pixel artwork from Michelle Kondrich

9. Inside the brazen Arctic trip supplying Putin’s flagship energy scheme | Financial Times

'Meet the US-born former Hollywood financier navigating Arctic ice and western sanctions to help keep Russia’s energy dreams alive'

10. The Economist’s glass-ceiling index | The Economist

'Our annual measure of the role and influence of women in the workforce'

11. The Flipbook Experiment | The Pudding

'Help draw the longest flipbook animation ever. It’s like the telephone game, but visual.' Since bookmarking this page 15,286 frames have been drawn and submissions are now closed pending the imminent results of this experiment in generation loss; 'how will the original drawing mutate as it is traced by more and more people?'

12. The story of Gaza's destruction in 100 lives | The Guardian

Pulitzer Prize Winner Mona Chalabi illustrates: 'if Gaza's population of 2.2 million people were distilled in to 100 characters, they would look something like this...'

13. What’s the cloud forecast for eclipse day? | New York Times

The eclipse has now passed 2 weeks ago but this was a smart piece looking at the data behind forecasting potential cloud cover (worth linking a useful associated contextual piece by Rob Simmon)

14. Danube warming up | Atlo Team

'Our latest on #WorldWaterDay is about the warming temperatures of the river Danube' [You can switch between Hungarian or English language versions]

15. The Red Sea has become a war zone full of vulnerable ships | Bloomberg Visual Data Team

'Older ships with untraceable insurance are navigating the Red Sea in the face of Houthi attacks — and they’re increasing the threat to environmental and structural damage for everyone else'

16. Los Angeles bus speed | Craig Taylor on LinkedIn

'What does the accumulation of 15 million GPS positions from Los Angeles buses look like over 6 months?' Craig shows you with his latest incredible transit dataviz.

17. From slumber to spectacle | Reuters

'How India’s Jamnagar airport managed an unprecedented number of flights for billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s family event'

18. Take a look into the mind of the machine! | Moebio

'I repeated the same completion prompt "Intelligence is " hundreds of times and used this to peer into the statistical and semantic behavior of ChatGPT'

19. Vast and tangled web: S’pore’s largest case of money laundering | The Straits Times

'An extensive web of people and companies with billions in assets was uncovered as part of the largest case of money laundering in Singapore. The Straits Times looks at the links between those arrested, their partners and associates.'


Relevant articles, interviews, or videos to help further your development in data viz.

20. How to start a data-graphics library | RJ Andrews' Chartography

Book collecting obsessive (his words), RJ, offers a strategy for how to start building your library of data viz and related books, step by step. (Full disclosure, he kindly includes mine)

21. Shape the data, shape the thinking | Enrico Bertini's FILWD

March saw the publishing of the 5th and final part of a wonderful collection of posts from Enrico about the vital and (as he notes, under-discussed) matter of 'data transformation'. Its come about via recent personal experience, but I too have now had reason to promote data transformation capabilities to the upper echelons of 'must have' skills.

22. Maps are for more than just finding your way | New York Times

Charming article, part of the NYT's Design special section about innovative surfaces in architecture, interiors and products. This piece looks at maps as a decorative design texture.

23. The work of creation in the age of AI | Andrew Perfors

'Meaning, authenticity, and the creative process – and why they matter'

24. Ridgeline plot with inside plot and annotations | R Graph Gallery

'This page showcases the work of Ansgar Wolsing for the TidyTuesday challenge.... explaining how to create a ridgeline plot with an inside plot for the legend and annotations in R with ggplot2.'

25. Animals as Earth System Observers | Earth Observatory

'Increasingly, scientists are realizing the power of animal observations to improve climate monitoring and reveal Earth processes in finer detail.'

26. Creativity + Science Conversations | Sheila Pontis

'Despite the many challenges, COVID restrictions pushed society to explore new ways of doing familiar tasks that before had been truly unthinkable. One of these tasks was teaching: rethinking the traditional in-person modality of instruction brought many headaches and a big learning curve, but also opened the door to new opportunities, like being able to reach to populations that were geographically very far away. To me, this was the trigger to bring creativity closer to science.'

27. Designing for all audiences: Mapping the future of food | Stamen

Stamen's Caroline Carter shares the design process behind how they worked with The Plotline and Earth Genome to visualise 'which food crops are best-suited to the changing climate in Africa'.

28. A visual compliment | Nightingale

'The story details the time I set out to track how many compliments I said in a week, but I came away with having received almost as many as I gave.'

29. Washing away environmental apathy | Effect Affect

'Tired of feeling like your environmental pleas fall on deaf ears? Imagine using art as a catalyst to jolt people into caring about sustainability. Sounds far-fetched? Read on.'

30. Mappemondes [French] | Amazon

A book published in 2023 that I'd not previously come across, authored by Le Monde's infographic and cartographic designers Xemartin Laborde, Delphine Papin, and Francesca Fattori - 'Mappemondes: Un voyage dans le temps pour raconter le monde contemporain'

31. Solving the problems of generative AI is everyone's responsibility | Rock Paper Shotgun

'As we look to the near future of generative AI, we need to decide what we want to do with it'

32. Can AI write great titles? | Evergreen Data

'Great chart titles succinctly tell the reader an insight about the data. In a basic form, this is how we tell a data story... I wondered if AI tools could make insight-seeking a breeze, so I tapped ChatGPT and Gemini (which has been called Bard).'

33. Weather forecasts have become much more accurate; we now need to make them available to everyone | Our World in Data

'A four-day forecast today is as accurate as a one-day forecast 30 years ago.' This article by Hannah Ritchie looks at how this improvement has taken place over time and how global inequalities need closing to 'protect lives and livelihoods around the world'.

34. Why Line Chart Baselines Can Start at Non-Zero | Flowing Data

'There is a recurring argument that line chart baselines must start at zero, because anything else would be misleading, dishonest, and an insult to all that is good in the world. The critique is misguided.'

35. Why has The Economist changed its typeface? | The Economist

Well, I'll let this article answer why...

36. How can illustration be used as a tool to educate and inspire | It's Nice That

'London-based freelance illustrator, Maisy Summer, explains why educational visual material often calls for close collaboration with the intended audience.'


Latest developments, announcements, or announcements affecting the data viz world.

37. Newsletter in English and Spanish | Alberto Cairo

Great to see Alberto has also launched a newsletter and this post introduces this and outlines his intentions

38. New book in progress | @barelymaps on Twitter

I love Peter Gorman's minimalist maps and it looks like there is exciting news of him working on a new book that will profile '100 Maps of Hawai‘i Island'

39. Explore local stats (UK) | Ahmad Barclay on Bluesky

'After more than a year of development, we’ve [ONS] just launched #ExploreLocalStatistics , a brand new way to explore 57 datasets from across government right down to a local authority level!'

40. Data Mockstar | OpenAI

Created by Adam Mico, this 'GPT provides blinded data on nearly any topic and will work with you to build the perfect starter dataset for your project'

41. Introducing live collaboration in Datawrapper | Datawrapper

'With Datawrapper’s new live collaboration, all your team members can access and edit visualizations simultaneously: everyone is working on the same version, and all edits are immediately visible to every other team member. You can instantly see when your colleague is editing, and they can see yours.'

42. Jo Wood | Bluesky

This is really exciting news (full disclosure, I had a small, footnote-sized involvement) 'Our Centre for Doctoral Training in Diversity in Data Visualization has been awarded over £9m funding today for 60 PhD positions, offering career paths to currently under-represented groups in the data visualization sector'

43. Announcing rare live shows | Information is Beautiful

To celebrate the 15th anniversary of Information is Beautiful in June, David McCandless is hosting a series of rare and exclusive live performances in London, San Francisco, LA and potentially other cities – plus some virtual events for global timezones.


Additional references to pieces covering broader data, tech, or design matters.

44. Whale Tales | Bluesky

An injection of nostalgia (for those of a certain age perhaps), I used to adore pouring through the details of illustrated posters like this, by Uko Gorter, posted in honour of #WorldWhaleDay.

45. A collection of unethical designs from around the world | Unethical Designs

'Through this website, we invite you to engage with a seemingly simple yet challenging question: What is unethical design?' This is a collection of examples, shared by people around the world, of designs that demonstrate aspects of being unethical.

46. A Colorful Pin Collection Celebrates the Unique Cultures and Exports of Japan’s 47 Prefectures | This is Colossal

'The tiny, cartographic wearables recreate Japan’s 47 prefectures, their matte color palettes reflecting the crops, landscapes, and cultures of each region'.

47. A Car Shaking Snow Off of Itself | Core77

'NIO ET9: The dynamic dance of Skyride active suspension' (Not sure if its real or not but its fun either way)

48. I can’t picture things in my mind. I didn’t realize that was unusual | The Guardian

'People with aphantasia can’t mentally visualize things. Mental imagery is a spectrum, and we lie outside it, in the dark'

49. The 88x31 archive |

'This site contains 29257 unique 88x31 buttons that I scraped from the GeoCities archives... before GeoCities' demise in late 2009'.

50. FC Variable | It's Nice That

'This football-inspired tool allows you to create interactive illustrations like a variable font'

Latest from me...

Some recent posts and announcements about my professional services and activities.

Public training course: ‘Masterclass in Data Visualisation’ (London, July 10-11)

The day this newsletter comes out I will be delivering my April masterclass course in London, which sold out a couple of weeks ago and so I've arranged another event which will take place in London over 10-11 July. If you're interested, early-bird discounted rates are available through to May 10 and the course is already half full as of 22 April.

Once I get a little bit of a break from catching up, from deadlines, and generally delivering things, I'm going to look at scheduling more training events, particularly online. Alongside my website and other socials, I'll continue to share details through this newsletter.

A new digital version of 'The Seinfeld Chronicles' is underway!

I'm delighted to say I will be collaborating with the hugely talented Anne-Marie Dufour to translate my largest-ever data viz project from its original printed output into a digital interactive. I always wanted to make this into a more widely accessible digital version but prioritised the original project's output to the limited edition book. I contemplated taking that further with a few enquiries to publishers but nothing materialised and so all my attention now is working with Anne-Marie to create a novel web version. More info in due course!

Explore Explain Season 5 *IS* launching this week!

I said last month that season 5 was nearly upon us. That 'nearly' ended up doing a lot of holding work but its now genuinely the case that the first episode will be coming this week (w/c 22nd April) featuring a great conversation with two of my favourite people in dataviz, Rebecca Conroy and Duncan Swain from Beyond Words. I have also recorded episodes 2, featuring Jess Carr, and 3, with Natalie and Hermann from TWO-N, and these will be published over the next few weeks. Visit the 'Podcast' page on my website to learn how to subscribe to the audio podcast, as well as listen to previous episodes, as well as details of the Youtube channel to watch all the enhanced video episodes.

Thanks for reading!

I’m ANDY KIRK, an independent data visualisation expert based in the UK. My vision is to deliver data viz excellence, everywhere. I offer data visualisation professional services to clients worldwide in my capacity as a design consultant, a prolific and experienced trainer, as an adjunct lecturer on the MSc Business Analytics programme at UCL, as a three-times published author, as a researcher, and sought-after speaker. I'm editor of and host of the Explore Explain video and podcast series. If you have a desire to elevate your data viz capabilities, whether at the start of your journey or further along, get in touch.

Newsletter compiled and published by Andy Kirk on behalf of Visualising Data Ltd, 41 Talbot Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS8 1AG
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