Nice graphic on Chicago’s relative position as a global city

The cover story in today’s Chicago Tribune on Chicago’s status as a global city includes a nice graphic showing how Chicago matches up on a variety of dimensions.

This sort of multi-dimensional graphic is becoming more common. Its biggest advantage is that it can display a lot of information across a variety of dimensions. This graphic shows 10 different aspects of being a global city. It is also relatively easy to compare ranks of cities, if you know what you are looking at – the further out the area or the more area a city covers on the graphic means a higher ranking. Of course, the biggest downside is that is takes a little bit of time to figure out how to read it. Is a city better if it is closer to the middle or further away on each dimension? (It is is better to be further out – higher ranking cities cover more area.) It can also be a lot to take in at once.

It is a nice addition to add the seven comparison cities at the bottom with Chicago’s mass overlaid on each diagram. Just having Chicago’s rankings graphed would provide some information but do so without any context.

“Bewitching” look at state migration patterns is good when used interactively but not all together

The Atlantic Cities has a cool graphic about migration between states but there is one problem – it is hard to read unless you use the interactive element.

Here is an explanation of how to read the chart:
The graphic may look like spaghetti pie at first glance, but it really is beautifully simple once you learn how to navigate it. Here’s Walker explaining about that:

The visualization is a circle cut up into arcs, the light-colored pieces along the edge of the circle, each one representing a state. The arcs are connected to each other by links, and each link represents the flow of people between two states. States with longer arcs exchange people with more states (California and New York, for example, have larger arcs). Links are thicker when there are relatively more people moving between two states. The color of each link is determined by the state that contributes the most migrants, so for example, the link between California and Texas is blue rather than orange, because California sent over 62,000 people to Texas, while Texas only sent about 43,000 people to California. Note that, to keep the graphic clean, I only drew a link between two states if they exchanged at least 10,000 people.

Without the interactive element, you can’t quite figure out what is going on. All you can rely on is the relative width and length of the arcs as there are no numbers for the migration (and that would get cluttered really quickly). For example, you can quickly see that it seems like California sends Texas a lot of people. Or that quite a few New Yorkers go to California or Florida. The middle is kind of a jumbled mess and can be hard to follow thinner strands.

This seems to be a fun graphic element when it takes advantage of the capabilities of the Internet – you can click on your state, cut out all the clutter, and see the numbers. Otherwise, I’m not sure it adds much and still requires a good amount of text to sort things out.

Graphic comparing US to other developed nations on nine measures

This particular graphic provides a look at how the United States stacks up against other developed nations on nine key measures, such as a Gini index, Gallup’s global wellbeing index, and life expectancy at birth.

As a graphic, this is both interesting and confusing. It is interesting in that one can take a quick glance at all of these measures at once and the color shading helps mark the higher and lower values. This is the goal of graphics or charts: condense a lot of information into an engaging format. However, there are a few problems: there is a lot of information to look at, it is unclear why the countries are listed in the order they are, and it takes some work to compare the countries marked with the different colors because they may be at the top or bottom of the list.

(By the way, the United States doesn’t compare well to some of the other countries on this list. Are there other overall measures in which the United States would compare more favorably?)

One chart that situates the 2012 Republican presidential contenders

One of the key purposes of a chart or graph is to distill a lot of complicated information into a simple graphic so readers can quickly draw conclusions. In the midst of a crowded field of people who may (or may not) be vying to be the Republican candidate for president in 2012, one chart attempts to do just that.

This chart has two axes: moderate to conservative and insider to outsider. While these may be fuzzy concepts, creator Nate Silver suggests these axes give us some important information:

With that said, it is exceptionally important to consider how the candidates are positioned relative to one another. Too often, I see analyses of candidates that operate through what I’d call a checkbox paradigm, tallying up individual candidates’ strengths and weaknesses but not thinking deeply about how they will compete with one another for votes.

Silver then goes on to explain two other pieces of information for each candidate that is part of the circle used to place each candidate on the graph: the color indicates the region and the size of the circle represents their relative stock on Intrade.

Based on this chart, it looks like we have a diagonal running from top left to bottom right, from moderate insider (Mitt Romney) to conservative outsider (Sarah Palin) with Tim Pawlenty and Mike Huckabee trying to straddle the middle. We will have to see how this plays out.

But as a statistics professor who is always on the lookout for cool ways of presenting information, this is an interesting graphic.