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Every few months, I receive a call or an e-mail asking me the same thing: I want to set up an inhouse infographics team/process that spits out all the cool data we have sitting around on the cutting room floor. My response is usually the same: grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and be prepared to walk away with more questions than answers. Inevitably, at the end of an hour-long conversation, I hang up the phone and walk away thinking–”oh, I wish I’d said that.” So, this post is prompted by all the things I wish I had said, and all the things I wish I had known as I was starting out. Apparently I missed a lot, because this article is divided into three separate posts:

After all that work, there’s gotta be a good infographic in there somewhere.

Often there are misperceptions about how “easy” infographics are to create–they’re often thought of as a quick way to piece together data from long reports or collections of data that “seem” interesting or “seem” to drive home a specific point.

Many times, the client, marketing or communications perspective is derived (understandably) from a key message that the client wishes to drive home. That’s understandable… we tweeted it, we facebooked it, we posted on google+… after all that work, there’s gotta be a good infographic in there somewhere.

As I’m sure you know, the devil is in the details and there’s no better place for him to stir up confusion than between a team of eager communicators and designers. To many, data visualization may seem like a relatively new type of product (the marriage of data, writing and technology), but the way to wrangle it is the old fashioned way–good communication. Much of this article is about just that.

Are you equipped with the resources to produce and/or manage data visualizations? Do your expectations realistically align with your resources? Before you embark on your project, ask yourself this: what does information design mean to your team?

Do you have writers and editors who understand how differently people consume static or interactive graphics? Do you have someone who can understand the data? Do you have a designer experienced enough to use best practices (no pie-charts showing 12 categories, please) when visualizing data and can push back when necessary? If not, do you have someone who is seasoned enough to be able to guide the designer effectively? As a designer, I can tell you that I’m embarrassed by my early (and ongoing) missteps as an information designer. And (to me) most important of all, do you have a good track record working as a team with your designers? A good track record isn’t as subjective as it seems. Can you build a good visual product? Are your stakeholders satisfied? Are your designers empowered to do their best work? Is your writing and design process flexible enough to be iterative but firm enough to avoid design by committee? The answers to those questions for past products can point to your success with new ones, such as information graphics, even if you haven’t yet been creating them as a team.

But we all have to start somewhere, and this post is as good a place as any.

Background before starting the process.

First, a bit of background for you before you bring your team together.

Audience, goals and outcome. Be aware of how your audience can (and will) shift as your graphic passes through different distribution channels (social media, blogs, more traditional marketing streams, etc.).

One of the first missteps (you’ll hear me mention this often) is to assume that the infographic is simply a larger or longer version of something you’ve already produced. It’s not. Who is the consumer of this piece? What types of graphics (interactive or static) do you think they typically read and pass on? Is there any content or style those graphics share? How does that information affect the tone and style of what you’d like to design (e.g., do you want to stand out or blend in)?

If you’re developing a graphic to promote a product, ask yourself how the consumers of your graphic may be different than those of the related products which you are promoting. For example, if you create a video to persuade engineers to buy your widget, you may consider your target audience to be engineers. But if you create that video and an infographic to promote it, and one or both go viral (blogs, Facebook, etc.), your audience has broadened–and changed. So should your approach.

Data visualization: What you want to say is not always what you’re able to show.

But knowing your message and understanding how it will change for different mediums won’t help if your team assumes that you can easily “lift” some core headlines and “repurpose” a subset of the data into a new graphic.

What works for the goose doesn’t always work for the gander–and visualizing data is no exception. A long piece of content (say, a web article) can have the luxury of nuance and a more complex message. Carrying that into an infographic can be impossible. What sounds compelling in 500 words can take on an entirely new meaning when boiled down to a few headlines. When a series of graphs are woven together to support a key message in a longer piece of content, they do just that–support the message together. But in an infographic, where often neither the attention span nor the space is there (and with a potentially different audience) you necessarily need to pare down both your data and your story. And when you do that, sometimes you find that the two don’t complement each other as well as they did in other products.

And sometimes the answer is no. This information does not make a good infographic. There’s no magic to this discovery–it can happen in the beginning or later in the process. But one of the things that I like to do is to use it as a checkpoint at each major step or whenever I hit a roadblock–why is this happening?

Did we hit a roadblock that can be solved (people, process, content, data or design)? Or is does this idea simply not support an info graphic/interactive?

 

One of the smartest things you can do is to approach messaging and data as a new animal that must be reconceptualized from the beginning, and not make assumptions about its feasibility.

This helps you avoid assumptions that will lead you and your designers down the wrong path–affecting your deadlines, your creativity, your product and your stress level.

So, steps to designing an infographic or interactive? Start at the beginning.

1.      Rethink your audience, your message and confirm that your data supports it. Do your research–what are your competitors doing and who are they reaching out to? How do their infographics differ from their other pieces of content? You don’t have to copy your competitors, but you can learn from them.

2.      Next, be prepared to invite the team to a kick-off discussion to settle on audience, purpose and expectations.

3.      Review your data and make sure it gels with the content. Confirm that the graphic or interactive is feasible. Start working with your designer to make initial sketches of the graphic, and to begin determining format (static, interactive, motion, etc.). More on all of this later.

4.      Pitch the concept with specifics.

5.      Iterate, iterate, iterate.

6.      Begin design and execute the design, editing cycle. Publish.

7.      Learn from your mistakes.

Part 1: Kick-off meeting

Bring donuts, coffee, and call a meeting. Get your designers, editors, writers, researchers, and marketers at the table (try to keep this lean, but not so lean that major influencers will be left out). If you’re working with a small team, consider yourself fortunate–you’ll likely avoid the pitfalls of the dreaded design by committee syndrome. Regardless, keep reading to learn more about things to consider discussing.

“Should we even do this?” Start by reiterating that the the conversation will explore feasibility first, and that the questions you’ll be exploring will help you determine this.

Reality check: Should we even do this? Depending on the dynamics and size of your team, this is something you can tease out gently, or something you can start with upfront. It can be the hardest thing to say, because sometimes all or most of the people involved assume an infographic is a done deal. They’re simply waiting for you to tell them how to get it done.

What are you creating, for whom and why. Discuss what you’d like to create, who it’s for, how you expect they’ll use it, what they’ll likely want to hear (not what *you* want to tell them). A colleague once shared this with me (she uses it for her students) and I’ve been using it ever since:

(X product/project ) is an (X description of project) that provides (X What) for (X audience) in order to (X value proposition).

Talk a bit about the graphic’s relationship to other products (e.g., this is part of a package of [x]) and how the graphic will support that.

Discuss how the message, tone and style of the graphic are different (if at all) from other products, while at the same time reassuring stakeholders by bringing back those differences in support of the overall product package or message. If the audience, their needs and expectations (how they consume information through a graphic, how quickly people read and share on Facebook, etc.) are different from those of other products produced by the team, note how the graphic will addresses those needs.  This (for me anyway) is a reliable way to acknowledge biases and preconceived notions while gently opening up the sky for more possibilities.

Once stakeholders get excited about a graphic, it can be easy for editors, writers and reviewers to get carried away with wordsmithing and micro-managing the designer (this is known as “design by committee”) and many designers would rather draw on hot coals than endure it. I’m kind of in the middle. You can’t always avoid it, but the more experienced you are the better you can side-step some of the pain.

Design by committee: If the stars align and you manage to hold on to your sense of humor and faith in the human race, you can turn the good intentions of micro-managers into useful feedback that is redirected to the appropriate stage of the design cycle.

Hopefully this article will help you avoid some of those pitfalls. As a designer who does a lot of hands on design and as a manager who manages other designers and consultants, I’ve experienced this from many angles. Though it’s not easy no matter where you sit, the better you handle expectations up front about reviewers, roles and design styles the more your designer will be free to add value and expertise to the process.

Avoiding design by committee: questions to ask regarding review and feedback.

If you think, for whatever reason, that your team thinks they can design your product better than your designer, you’re in for a world of hurt unless you begin managing the process at the outset.

The designer’s role. Who is your designer? Do you trust them? Do you feel that they understand you, your message, your brand and your audience? Do you really, really see them as adding value and expertise that you don’t have or, in your heart of hearts, do you secretly think: dang, if I knew how to use that funky Illustrator software, I could bang this out in an hour. I’m being serious here, folks. You really do need to assess the designer’s role and your perception of their skill set (and confirm your team feels similarly) because that’s where roles can break down. Things are the way they are. But if you think, for whatever reason, that your team thinks they can design your product better than your designer, you’re in for a world of hurt unless you begin managing the process at the outset. Good communication, respect for each person’s expertise and understanding of roles does wonders to establish trust. Work hard to get there and you won’t be sorry.

An informed designer is a good designer.

And don’t forget to to ensure that your designer is part of the larger conversations about the direction of the graphic–the more they know and hear at the outset, the better equipped they’ll be to do their best work when their time comes to design. And giving them multiple opportunities to learn the message, the data and ask questions will pay off in the end–a good designer is an informed designer.

Process and team roles. Who will be reviewing the graphic? Will they be sharing it with other teams or people? I can’t tell you how many times I thought I had a design nailed down when one of my reviewers comes back to me with more edits or comments (often good ones) because they share it with a (friend/manager/colleague) who wasn’t part of the process. Don’t get too grumpy about this–sometimes the outsider perspective can be invaluable–but ensure that it has a time and a place and that you’re aware of it. In other words, corral it up front.

What will each team member’s role be? A long time ago someone taught me the RACI model (Responsible, Accountable, Consult, Inform). Since then, I’ve used this concept to map out the (sometimes) difficult task of determining the various roles that reviewers and influencers have in a project’s life cycle (typically a content outline, a few sketches, a few design drafts and one or two final versions if you do it right).

Try to determine how much influence and decision-making authority each reviewer has, and work to ensure that they’re aware of it. Determine who has approval authority and how you need to work with them through the design cycle. Make sure they understand the big picture. Know up front (go ahead, ask them) if they will be weighing in on specifics (colors, fonts, commas, piecharts). Yeah, I know–that’s design by committee and they shouldn’t do that. But (reality check) sometimes they do and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. If that’s the case (and hopefully you’re seasoned or lucky enough to know the difference) you’re going to have to do your best to manage it.

One person alone cannot, and should not, review and give feedback on everything. Group review assignments and delegate accordingly.

In my experience, infographic review is comprised of the following, usually iterated/produced in a series of drafts that grow progressively more refined along each of the points below:

  • Big picture stuff: message, tone/style (brand) and claims
  • Visuals: major things (look, brand, fonts) and the details (are things aligned, are the graphics built well)
  • Headlines and subtext: How well do the headlines thread together? Are they coherent? Does your supporting text (“chatter”) read well? Are graphic headlines clear enough so that if the reader doesn’t look at the graphic, they understand the major findings?
  • Quality control: Commas, spelling, fact checking

Which team members review content? Findings? Design comps? Who handles fact checking or quality control? Who sees every draft versus major drafts? Plan for it and work as closely with them as needed. Give them touchpoints for approvals. Others you’ll simply consult (hey, what do you think of this?). They may have opinions, but you’re not bound to to abide by those–simply to consider them. And others you simply inform. They need to be told (timing milestones, etc.) but aren’t there to weigh in on design. Trust me if you don’t already know this. Hone your diplomacy skills and try to set these expectations up front.

Design and timing. Next, talk about design and timing expectations for the graphic. Discuss products related to the graphic and how (or whether) the graphic should visually tied in to those. Make it clear that a literal one-to-one match in terms of colors, fonts and styles (depending on the product) is not always wise. Everything depends on the medium. For example, print uses different fonts and space/composition differently than online content. And interactives are designed differently than infographics.

And here’s another opportunity to set expectations up front. You want to discuss, at this point, the overall tone, look and feel (e.g., it should tie in to [x] brand/product, etc.) just enough so that later on, when the team is presented with a design, there are new things to show them but no major surprises (um, since when did we start using Comic Sans and magenta as a brand color?).

Build a rough schedule of the milestones. Allow for 1-3 rough drafts (sketches) and 2-3 (sometimes more) design drafts.

Think of the design cycle as an inverted pyramid. In the beginning, the number of reviewers will be many, as will the scope and quantity of edits and changes. In the end, it will be the reverse. Fewer (and more senior) reviewers and fewer changes that are smaller in scope. At the very end, you should have the designer and one person worrying about errant commas and moving a line or two by a few pixels. That’s about it.

Think of the design cycle as an inverted pyramid. In the beginning, the number of reviewers will be many, as will the scope and quantity of edits and changes. That’s okay, because you’ll be working with a document meant to accommodate this–content outlines and rough sketches. This is exactly where changes should occur–where the level of effort to make them will be the lowest.

I can’t say this enough. I wish I had invented the concept:

As you move forward with more detailed sketches and, later, illustrated design concepts, the level of effort to make changes will be higher. Thus, the number of people reviewing should be smaller (and perhaps more senior in the decision-making process) and the amount of edits and changes–as well as their scope–should be smaller.

Know when your data will be final, and plan accordingly. I can’t underscore this enough. Changing data can do just that–change. Everything. Your words, your scope, your design. Your sanity. Remember that awesome headline or tagline that rocked your world? Don’t get too attached to it if your data has changed. It’s a no-brainer, I know. Even though I’ve been doing this for a while, I can’t tell you how many times I get so excited by the design that I simply forget to nag the team about the data, only to learn that it has changed. And with it, the design concept that I was working so hard on. Life happens.

Plan for it and check in frequently with your team if you think this will be a possibility. For example, say you’re working on a story about widget use around the world. You review your data–awesome. Widget use is skyrocketing, according to data that you pulled for the past ten years. And last year’s data is coming out next week. So, in anticipation, you pull the team together, work up some sketches, move forward with designs, and leave a simple placeholder for 2012 data that you know is coming. Then you receive the data and–widget use has leveled off. Why? Well, not only does that require some explaining, but it also changes your story somewhat. You can prevent much of this from happening by talking, up front, about what the data is and, if you’re expecting more, getting good intelligence on what those numbers are likely to show. If you work in a company where numbers are your bread and butter–likely you’ll be surrounded by professionals who already know this. But if you’re embarking on this for the first time, keep that in mind.

Time to move on to the cheap flights lyrics, where you’ll learn how to bring together your data and your story into a solid sketch that you can later present.

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I like to insist that Washington, D.C. was buy Lyrica in australia, despite some evidence to the contrary. How else can one justify the carnivorous mosquitos, humidity, heat and all-around swampiness that pervades the nation’s capital? Maybe I’m being ornery, but being a bike commuter in DC does that to you. So last week, when the temperature dropped from 105 to the upper 80s… well, let’s just say that this was appropriate fodder for a light-hearted infographic designed by me for everyone who shares my hate/love relationship with summer.

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On a weekly basis (if I’m lucky) one of the things that I find myself most in need of is a common area to find real-life examples of the best practices that we all try to follow. But talk is cheap and a little bit of visual awesomeness goes a long way so…

When buy Lyrica pills announced its launch of a buy Lyrica canada pharmacy, I danced my happy dance (perhaps prematurely, time will tell).

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Why? Well, I don’t know how many of you often find yourselves swimming upstream and in the dark when it comes to sweet-talking clients out of ideas that you know are, em, well, sometimes just a wee bit unusual, not realistic, not good practice, a few branches short of a tree etc., etc.. If you are, then you also know how, though these conversations can sometimes be rewarding, oftentimes they are not (all recipients of puzzled looks or polite silence followed by the inevitable request to “do it anyway” or “can’t you just…” raise your hands).

I’m hoping that this new platform will give us quick access to quality examples of information design–solutions that illustrate a specific direction or idea that we’re trying to pitch to our teams, stakeholders and clients. Often I find myself scrambling to create comps to better prove or show a point. Nothing wrong with that, but if there’s a place where I can follow knowledgeable designers and their work rather than wading through Google searches or sites that warehouse images, I’m all for it (though where would I be without my favorite buy me a rose lyrics?).

The Visual.ly social media platform, coupled with the excellent blogs out there (ranging from cheap sunglasses lyrics, to case studies and reality checks by buy the stars lyrics, as well as the usual suspects like the cheap trick lyricsandLyrica to buy and many more) is a damn good thing, and I’m excited to see this take off.

If we use this tool wisely and well, does that mean no more Lyrica tablets buy online?

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For the cyclists out there, I hope you’ll agree that a post-ride banana is about as life-affirming as a cold beer. For me, even in the dog days of a Washington, D.C. summer, a banana is the perfect, portable pick-me-up. So, imagine my delight when a friend sent me a order Lyrica online, in the most recent issue of the science journal Nature, showing the distribution of gene families in this most humble of fruits. I had to reach waaay back to biology class (and order Lyrica from canada) to recall that monocots are one of two types of flowering plants (distinguished by having only one seed-leaf, for those of you dying to know). For the Venn geeks, the diagram actually uses order Lyrica online usa six-set Venn diagram.

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And if you like Venn diagrams more than bananas, here is one of my order Lyrica online uk, by Colin Harman. In math, Venn diagrams show relationships within sets. In real life, they allow cheeky designers to provide clients with a reality check.

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And if you’d like to see how NOT to use a Venn diagram, FlowingData recently posted on a mail order Lyrica.

 

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How timely. Last week I wrote about buy Lyrica 75 mg online. Juice Analytics recently created an buy Lyrica overnight, based on Andrew Abela’s original buy Lyrica tablets (buy Lyrica belfast). Both tools are excellent and offer a great start to choosing the right chart/graph format for data. The interactive chart offers little in terms of best practices (it wasn’t designed to do that) but helpfully separates out different chart types by the data that you have (quantity, comparison, distribution, etc.). And the best part of the interactive is that it provides you with downloadable templates for both Excel and Powerpoint. I’ll try this and might write about how well it works for me in a business setting.

I actually like Andrew’s original (static) chart a little better, as I find the flow diagram does a nicer job of providing context for the decision-making process.

Put both of these things together and you’re off to a good start.

[UPDATE]: Read buy Lyrica cheapto the chart-by-menu mentality.

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Andrew Abela’s original chart chooser tool

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I don’t pretend to be an expert on any subject other than one: how to recognize Lyrica purchase online australia. That’s not false humility, it’s a candid admission. Most of what you’ll read in this blog are summaries of my learning curve in pixels–summaries built on the experience of those more patient, methodical and talented than I. Thank goodness for the interwebs.

To the wealth of information out there, I can add only a small amount of experience, most of which is gleaned from making mistakes; from not asking the right questions; from not sufficiently challenging, and thus not understanding, the premise of a project; and from occasional bouts of arrogance or foolishness. Okay, the confessional is closed. But the reason I make this point is because this is exactly where ethics and best practices come in. It’s your first line of defense against silly ideas foisted upon you by unknowing clients, editors, writers–even you.

A recent post by Alberto Cairo entitled “buy Pregabalin Lyrica online” reminds us, yet again, that as much as we raise the bar in each and every way–via the visual arts, or through  technology, or by envisioning new ways to tell our stories through data–it doesn’t amount to much without some guiding principles. This is not a new idea, but I when I look at the proliferation of infographics I do wonder how top of mind this is for information designers (myself included). Some signs are encouraging–as some of you may remember, Visual.ly, a popular data viz sharing site, adopted a buy pfizer Lyrica online in February (other blogs, including Tableau, wrote about this as well, though the discussion generated little comment other than a reference to Fox News–below).

So, buy Lyrica tablets uk, as well as a buy Lyrica uk from the Harvard Nieman Watchdog Journalism Project (co-written by Mr. Cairo) which the article references, and try to make it part of your work in meaningful ways.

We’re listening to you, Alberto. But apparently, buy Lyrica usa still is not.

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A friend recently asked me, “how do you choose the right chart?” I thought about it, and essentially sent her a list of the sites that I have bookmarked, along with a few comments. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and it’s meant more for a layperson, but here’s the list, nonetheless. If you have more suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

I’ll follow up with a future post illustrating a few of these, and summarizing best practices and my experiences (a post which my toddler recently published in draft form–word to the wise, never let your toddler near your blog 😉

In the meantime…

Which chart should I use

Limited to basic charts but half the time, that’s all you need.

  • buy Pregabalin in uk: A great reference that can get technical and, if you’re so inclined, introduces (gently) some basic statistical concepts.
  • CDC (buy Pregabalin india): Yes, this is from the CDC but for a layperson it provides a succinct reminder to keep things simple.
  • buy Pregabalin 75 mg capsule: This is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a nice primer on the types of basic graphs out there.
  • Stephen Few (buy Pregabalin online eu: These guidelines are from Stephen Few, a man more practical than Tufte (in my opinion), yet just as hell-bent on clarity and focus. If you can read his books, do so. At a minimum, spend some time on his white papers and you’ll learn a lot.
  • buy generic Pregabalin online: Less helpful if you’re looking for charts, and more helpful if you’re interested in mapping ideas or processes, this graphic mimics the structure of the periodic table, but for data visualization.
  • can i buy Pregabalin in spain of data visualization: If you like the periodic table, this page actually has links to each example cited in the periodic table. The most helpful part is that the links point to either images in Google or links to wikipedia articles that discuss each graphic type. If you’d like to learn more about different charts and their uses, this makes for a good, albeit long, starting point.
  • where to buy Pregabalin in canada There is also a very excellent blog about creating graphics in Excel. I hate Excel and love this blog. This is much more than a “there’s a chart for that” approach; lots of good information on best practices and case studies that go beyond Excel.

From Illustrator to information designer:

For more traditional graphic designers (not coders) seeking to make the move to data visualization and understanding both the mechanics and the theory behind visualizing information, a crash course in handling data in Adobe Illustrator is helpful. Lots of terrific designers never get the chance to interact with data in Illustrator, so that’s not unusual.

Free, open source data visualization tools for the non-designers that are good, and useful

can you buy Pregabalin over the counterMany Eyes was developed by IBM labs. It’s a phenomenal tool for quickly visualizing a ton of information in a few seconds, without spending much time on having to learn how to format the data. Just copy/paste from Excel and you’re set. To start, first create an account. Then on the left under the “participate” heading, choose “create a visualization.” That takes you to the “upload data” screen, into which you can simply paste in your data. Then in that same screen go to step 4 (you can ignore the rest) and give your data a title (e.g., “test). Hit “create” to go to the next screen. Click the “visualize” button and then choose a format (bar chart, etc). What’s great about this is that each format has a “learn more” button, which explains in simple terms what each graphic type is best suited to do. At any rate, once you’ve chosen a format, you can see what the viz looks like. At that point, I just take a screenshot and exit, because I don’t wish to publish the data—I just need help with visualizing it. But you can click “publish” to do so.

Pregabalin to buy uk: The “Tableau public” version is free, though you do have to publish what you use, I believe. There is definitely a learning curve to understanding how to format the data–different than Excel and not intuitive if you’re expecting an Excel experience. But very powerful once you get the hang of it.

The Guardian’s list on buy Pregabalin uk: This article by the Guardian also mentions the above and a few other tools, most of which I’m sure you know about (Google maps, Google Fusion tables and Google charts) but also a few others that I haven’t tried.

On good data visualization practices:

There are three absolutely phenomenal articles by Enrico Bertini.

 

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Many designers choose to export data from Excel into Adobe Illustrator’s charting tool. A few months ago, we found ourselves scratching our heads over a request that we received. The internal client had lots and lots of data on personal income and wanted to show this data as a scatter plot graphic, divided into quintiles. They had already created a basic version of this graphic in Excel, but needed the designers to redesign it to make it easier to understand and to add the visual polish and presentation for which design software is better suited.

Goals, approach and tools

We took a look and determined that our biggest task was simply learning how to create a scatterplot graphic that could handle the large volume of data the original Excel file contained–1,043 rows of data.

Our goal: Show intensity and data patterns across five categories (quintiles). Keep the data “live” in order to be able to quickly update the graphic with new data.

Our approach: Use Illustrator’s scatter plot tool to graph the data. Customize the graph to create a heat map in order to show intensity/concentration of data.

Our tools: Adobe Illustrator’s graph creation tool and Illustrator’s transparency settings to create a heat map

An explanation of the final product: a heat map produced using Illustrator’s scatter plot graph tool

Take a look at the graph below. I recreated something similar to that which my team designed (update: because we haven’t yet published the data, this graph shows widgets instead of the subject matter of the original graphic). This hypothetical graph shows costs of production (money) spread out across four categories (quartiles)–a bottom quartile, a second quartile, a third quartile and the top (fourth) quartile. The darker the color (the heat map effect) the greater the intensity of those data. In other words, where the color is darkest represents a large number of widgets that with that cost of production. Where it is lightest represents a smaller number of widgets with that cost of production.

Fig. 7: Bells and whistles: Showing intensity in a scatter plot graph in Adobe Illustrator

Showing intensity in a scatter plot graph in Adobe Illustrator

Needless to say, we learned a lot about Illustrator’s scatter plot capabilities in six hours.

What you need to know before you begin this tutorial

Before I begin, I’m assuming a basic level of understanding with Illustrator (we were using CS5, but I believe all CS levels should work for this example) and its graph creation tool. If you’re not, search for buy Pregabalin powder and you’ll find plenty of tutorials. Better yet, FlowingData has a good buy Pregabalin usahere. And so does Adobe. If you’re a designer, you probably already know the basics.

Although I’m also assuming that you know what a scatter plot graph and what a heat map is, this tutorial will explain a bit about its uses and compare it to a line graph, albeit briefly.

To better explain all of this, let’s first start by building a more basic graph, a scatter plot graph.

Fig. 4: Formatted scatter plot graph in Adobe Illustrator

A scatter plot graph in Adobe Illustrator

As you can see from the example above, the graph contains four category rows (labeled “Category 1,” “Category 2,” etc. In the real world, these categories could be years, quartiles or however you wish to divide up your data. Each category shows a row of data points associated with it (Category 1 shows a gap in the values between 6 and 15, for example). Keep an eye on Category 4’s outlier, the number 20 in the top right. More on that later.

How to correctly import data into Illustrator’s data tool

Half the battle is learning how to enter or import this data into Illustrator. Essentially, think of your data as a series of columns that alternate. The first column has your “Y” axis values (your categories); the second column has your “X” axis values (the data associated with each category).

In my example, for Category 1 to appear first on my “Y” axis, I entered“1” in the first column (repeating “1” as many times as I had data for that category). In the second column I entered all the data associated with Category 1. Repeat, and you’re all set.

Take a look at these first two columns in the data table to see how simple this is: [FIGURE 1].

Data table for a scatter plot graph: FIGURE 1

Fig. 1: Data table in Adobe Illustrator

Fig. 1: Data table in Adobe Illustrator

Customizing your graph by using Illustrator’s “Graph Type” feature

As a final step, once you are finished working in the data table, click the checkmark button in the top right corner to output the graph. Then right-click on the graph itself and select “Type” from the menu. From the resulting “Graph options” dropdown in the dialog box, select the “Value axis.” In that dialog box, make sure that “Override Calculated Values” is checked. This is how to format your values for those fields:

  • Minimum value: should always be set to zero
  • Maximum value: should match the number of your categories (in the basic example shown in Figure 1, I had four categories, so I entered “4”)
  • Divisions value: this is how the categories will be divided up. I always find this one intuitive, though difficult, to explain. For this tutorial make sure that the number you enter is one less than the total the number of categories that you have (I had 4 categories, so I entered a “3”).

Basic scatter plot graphic in Illustrator: FIGURE 2

Here’s the resulting graphic that Illustrator will produce at this point (I added the color manually). The blue row in the graphic represents column 2 in the data table. Remember:  the reason Illustrator knows to put those blue points under the row labeled “1” is because you labeled them as 1s in column 1 of the data table. You can later change the name of that row from “1” to “Category 1” (as an example) in the graphic itself.  [FIGURE 2]

Fig. 2: Unformatted scatter plot graph in Adobe Illustrator

Fig. 2: Unformatted scatter plot graph in Adobe Illustrator

[Aside] How a scatter plot graph is different than a line graph: FIGURE 3

As an aside, if you’re not familiar with scatter plot graphs, here’s a quick explanation of how to interpret this one. Take a look at category 4 (it’s the green square in the top right of the graph shown in Figure 2, in the data table in Figure 1 it is the last column). Do you see how Category 4 has ten values, each numbered as 20?

But on the scatter plot graph, you only see the number 20 represented once (green square). Scatter plot graphs won’t show you data points when they overlap exactly–a line graph will, however. Here’s the same data in a line graph. Category 3 (green) now shows you each data point that is numbered as 20. [FIGURE 3]

Fig. 3: Comparison of same data: A line graph in Adobe Illustrator

Fig. 3: Comparison of the same data: A line graph in Adobe Illustrator

Customizing the scatter plot graph: FIGURE 4

Back to the scatter plot graph, you can customize the labels in the graphic itself once you’re finished with the data view. For example, you can change the category numbers from 1,2,3 and 4 to specific category values that reflect how the data is actually organized (e.g., by quartile, by year, etc.). More importantly, you can customize further with fonts, colors, stroke widths, etc., some of which Illustrator will retain if you return to data view and change the data. Which ones, you might ask? That’s a post for another day. [FIGURE 4]

Fig. 4: Formatted scatter plot graph in Adobe Illustrator

Fig. 4: Formatted scatter plot graph in Adobe Illustrator

So, in the real world, what can Illustrator do for you? FIGURE 5

You can create a graphic that looks like this (this is not real data, of course): [FIGURE 5]

Fig. 5: Finished: A scatter plot graph in Adobe Illustrator

Fig. 5: Finished: A scatter plot graph in Adobe Illustrator

How to set up 1,043 rows of data: FIGURE 6

Here’s a look at the data. You’ll notice that the setup is identical to the basics that I outlined earlier. The figure below shows you a snapshot of how each row is set up. [FIGURE 6]

Figure 6: Data view of hypothetical widgets

Figure 6: Data view of hypothetical widgets

Turning a scatter plot into a heat map: Using transparency to further customize Illustrator’s scatter plot graph to create a heat map: FIGURE 7

I promised you a heat map, and here it is. Remember that a heat map essentially shows areas of concentration (or lack thereof) in data–intensity.

To show intensity for those data points that overlap (like the repeated series of 20s that I mentioned in Figure 2), simply select *all* the points in a category with your direct selection tool. (If you’re familiar with the “Select Similar” feature in illustrator, use your direct selection tool to choose just one data point, then choose use the “select similar” feature to automatically select all of the points in that row.) Then apply transparency to them all at once. Because transparency has a cumulative effect when layered on top of something else that is transparent, you are essentially creating a heat map effect. [FIGURE 7]

Fig. 7: Bells and whistles: Showing intensity in a scatter plot graph in Adobe Illustrator

Fig. 7: Bells and whistles: Showing intensity in a scatter plot graph in Adobe Illustrator

A simple explanation of transparency: FIGURE 8

Fig. 8: Bells and whistles: How to use transparency to show intensity in Adobe Illustrator

Fig. 8: Bells and whistles: How to use transparency to show intensity in Adobe Illustrator

Well, that’s it. Please let me know if I’ve left anything out. Remember, this tutorial is meant to show how to customize Illustrator’s scatter plot graph tool. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should! Once we publish the actual graphic, I’ll post that as well.

It’s time to watch (or explain) soccer again

Football fans, it’s Euro Cup 2012 time. If you live in the U.S., like me, prepare to justify your existence to people who prefer to watch other sports. If you live in other countries, I celebrate your freedom to share your joy with anyone within spitting distance. Lucky you.

But surely what unites all of us is the onslaught of football-related infographics, complete with awesome Photoshop cutouts of players, images of the coiffed Ronaldo, exploding piecharts and Pinterest boards too numerous to mention. Thus far, I haven’t found any graphics as funny as the Onion’s World Cup 2010 interactive, but it’s early, so I’m still hopeful–there’s a lot of Photoshop licenses out there.

The Onion's World Cup 2010 interactive

The Onion's World Cup 2010 interactive

If you’re a football fan, I’m sure you’ve already seen this interactive calendar by Marca.com as well as this fixture schedule, both featured on the CultFootball site.

interactive calendar cult football by Marca.com

UEFA's Euro Cup 2012 fixtures map

Aside from logistics, there’s the ongoing boycott petition in Germany, sponsored by a GLBT group (and Germany’s first openly gay football player) in protest of the Ukraine president’s refusal to denounce his country’s laws which criminalize homosexuality. The petition asks Angela Merkel to follow France and the UK’s example and boycott the Euro Cup (as foreign dignitaries). We’ll see, she says. This isn’t an infographic, per se, but it’s a visual statement nonetheless.

Euro 2012 anti homophobia

And then there is this, kindly brought to us by the gambling community (reminding us that betting is a huge part of football):

Euro-2012-Infographic

One of my favorite football-related infographics is always the slew of stadium infographics and maps, each one looking suspiciously like high-tech UFOs (why did I say that? Is there any other kind of UFO?). This year is no different. When the little green men/women/whosamawhatsit come to visit, they’ll feel right at home in one of these:

UFO stadiums Euro Cup 2012

And then there’s the Spanish team buzz on social media. Well, it is what it is. Go Spain!!!

Spain and the Euro Cup social media