Population Lines: How and Why I Created It

Thanks to the power of Reddit the “Population Lines” print (buy here) I created back in 2013 has attracted a huge amount of interest in the past week or so (a Europe only version made by Henrik Lindberg made the Reddit front page). There’s been lots of subsequent discussion about it’s inspiration, effectiveness as a form of […]

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Big Data and Design: More Baboon, Less Unicorn

I recently had the pleasure of giving a Creative Mornings talk. Each month there is a new theme that the presenters need to refer to – mine was “fantasy” so I chose to open with one of my favourite fantasy creatures: the unicorn. It’s a talk about the creative process behind Oliver Uberti and I’s […]

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7 Deadly Sins of (Academic) Data Visualisation

I was recently asked to deliver a days training on scientific data visualisation. I spent a while scanning through papers to pull out what I see as the “7 deadly sins” of academic data visualisation (there are probably many more) . These sins are rooted in a lack of time and training, an underestimation of the importance […]

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Mapping (historic) tracks in ggplot2

This tutorial was first published in “Geocomputation a Practical Primer“. Here is a more complex example showing how to produce a map of 18th Century Shipping flows. The data have been obtained from the CLIWOC project and they represent a sample of digitised ships’ logs from the 18th Century. We are using a very small […]

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Fast Thinking and Slow Thinking Visualisation

Last week I attended the Association of American Geographers Annual Conference and heard a talk by Robert Groves, Director of the US Census Bureau. Aside the impressiveness of the bureau’s work I was struck by how Groves conceived of visualisations as requiring either fast thinking or slow thinking. Fast thinking data visualisations offer a clear message without the need …

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The Power of Comparison: Just How Big Is It?

  If I said a country was 1594719800 metres squared it would mean a lot less to you than if I said it was about the size of Greater London (so long as you know about how big Greater London is). For this reason the media tend to report the extent of a flood in …

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Coming of Age: R and Spatial Data Visualisation

I have been using R (a free statistics and graphics software package) now for the past four years or so and I have seen it become an increasingly powerful method of both analysing and visualising spatial data. Crucially, more and more people are writing accessible tutorials (see here) for beginners and intermediate users and the development …

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My Academic Research: What’s in a Name?

I have spent the last few years investigating the geography of family names (also called surnames). I work with the team who assembled the UCL Department of Geography Worldnames Database that contains the names and geographic locations of over 300 million people in nearly 30 countries (a few of these are yet to be added to the website). My research has …

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Improved Tree Maps with R

“Treemaps display hierarchical (tree-structured) data as a set of nested rectangles. Each branch of the tree is given a rectangle, which is then tiled with smaller rectangles representing sub-branches. A leaf node’s rectangle has an area proportional to a specified dimension on the data. Often the leaf nodes are colored to show a separate dimension of …

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