Tuesday, December 3, 2019

"Wow" first, then "me" and details on demand

The New York Times has designed several deceptively simple visualizations depicting air pollution in different places in comparison to New Delhi, the most polluted city on the planet. This project does many things well, I believe.

First, it has a me layer, detecting where you are, or letting you search for it. As I wrote in The Truthful Art and in this blog, I think that letting viewers see themselves in the data greatly increases interest and engagement.

Second, the story opens with an animated dot density chart. The designers may have realized that the strength of their dot graphic isn't its accuracy—you can't compare cities to each other very well, but just get a rough impression of their relative pollution levels. Instead, what makes this visualization a good opener is its power to capture your attention. Later in the piece viewers can get all details through more traditional maps and graphs. The one below, for instance, which breaks the layout in a quite dramatic manner:

(Note: the title of this post is a pun based on Shneiderman's mantra.)