The Making of a Data Visualization

I was inspired by the blustery weather outside to write a weather related blog post today. In searching for interesting weather data, I stumbled upon this beautiful infographic created by Nicholas Rougeux, which can be found on his blog.

huge-2014

The poster shows weather data from 2014 in 50 major US cities. Each city is represented by a circle. Each circle is composed of 365 days worth of weather data from the Quality Controlled Local Climatological Data, represented by a circle on a line. Each circle on a line shows five measurements for the day: highest temperature, lowest temperature, range of temperatures, wind direction, and wind speed. Check out the image below to learn more about how to read each data point:

key

Here’s a close up of some of the cities on the infographic:

closeups

This infographic first stood out to me because of how pretty it is to look at. Each city is a unique explosion of color, and made the weather for the year in that city look exciting. I also appreciated how informative the image is. For example, by quickly looking at the images above you can learn the Las Vegas had the hottest temperatures of the three cities and tends to have wind from the the southwest. Chicago had the most varied wind scores, and Fargo had the strongest winds. Both Chicago and Fargo had a mix of warm and cold temperatures during the year. The image is an interesting and fun way to compare and contrast weather in different places across the US.

I was interested in how Rougeux created this image, so I checked out his page on the making of the infographic. First, Rougeux talks about how he was inspired to create a image about weather because it’s something that everyone, everywhere experiences everyday. Rougeux wrote about how it was challenging to create a design where each data point remained relatively equal… he didn’t want the days with warmer temperatures to visually overpower the colder days due to brighter colors or larger sizes. His solution to this problem was having the size of the temperature circles reflect the range of temperatures on that day. This would give the warm and cool days equal visual presence. I thought it was interesting how the choices Rougeux made about how to present the information visually changed both the aesthetic appeal of the image and the way viewers perceive the information.

I also thought Rougeux’s rough drafts of the image were fascinating.I highly suggest checking out his site to see them all. One I found interesting was the 8th version Rougeux tried for visualizing the Chicago data. The triangles pointing upwards are the highs for each day, and the triangles pointing downwards are the lows. The pairs are plotted horizontally from largest to smallest range of temperature, and smaller triangles are placed in front of larger ones. I think this image does a good job of showing the range, but makes it hard to see individual data points, and makes it seem that Chicago was hotter than it really was since the cooler colors tend to blend into the middle.

weather-v8.png

I think Rougeux’s work is a great example of how data, technology, and art can work together. If I had just looked at the weather data presented in a table of list, I probably wouldn’t have been very interested. However, seeing the infographic made me want to look closer to analyze weather trends, or maybe even hang the image up on my wall as a poster. I also appreciated that Rougeux showed some of his drafts. It helped me understand that data visualizations can emphasize different aspects of the data depending on how it is presented.

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