Sunday, October 28, 2012

More about the NYTimes' ribbon diagram

Two weeks ago I wrote about one of the most interesting recent visualization projects by The New York Times. I've just got the Sunday edition of the paper and it includes its static version. I've shot some pictures of it; forgive me for their poor quality. The whole page is on the left.

I guess that this was printed in color in the New York edition of the Times. The one that I get in Miami is the U.S. edition, which has more black and white pages (that's my guess, at least; I may be wrong). Even considering this downside, the graphic looks beautiful. Its size makes it very appealing. If I had enough space on my office walls, I might consider printing this on glossy paper and frame it.

However, after spending some time exploring it, I wonder what the value of the large graph is. It's a big web of entangled ribbons that doesn't clarify that much, particularly compared to the smaller ones that complement it, on the side and at the bottom (see them below). The main graph works well as an illustration to arouse your interest but, after that, the stories are more clearly understood through the little insets and the informative copy, a great example of how to organize an "annotation" layer (see my previous post).

So here's my question: How would this composition look if it were made of several dozens of small line graphs (they'd need scales), fifty for the states, and maybe four or five about the main geographical regions in the U.S.? We may not even need to erase the big graphic entirely, but keep its top portion, which displays FiveThirtyEight's most recent forecast. Would that be more efficient?

(Read more to see the other photographs)