The Art of the Chart

Look closely at the above graphic. That giant black blob, that's Houston. The Rice University School of Architecture commissioned this award-winning infographic last year. The chart isn't based on current data; it's based upon expected planning in Houston. It's not a warning, but it's a reminder that the radius of Houston is large and will continue to expand in the future. Is it a refresher on why we should think about public transit options? The issues surrounding our community's continued viability are highlighted when compared to other global communities. Houston expanding is not a bad thing, but what do we want our expansion to mean? Do we want it to be a big black blob? Then what should it be? That's for the chart viewer to interpret.

This image came our way via I Love Charts, a Tumblr blog that aggregates the web's best charts. They aren't all informative, but some of them are. What they all have in common is a certain design aesthetic- most are pretty.

Check out Kurt White's chart on childhood obesity. (Click here for full-size view.)

See if you can count the number of ways White displays information. There's a timeline tracing events contributing to obesity, but the timeline also serves as the x-axis for a graph displaying the percentage of obese children. That alone would constitute a fairly informative display of information, but there's so much more. White traces the size of soft drinks visually and numerically along the timeline. Is it information? Yes, but can it also be art? Probably.

Not all charts need to be informative or serious. Most of them aren't. Take for instance this guide to making a "Don Draper." It's not serious, but for Mad Men fans, it's worth the two minutes it takes to read it.


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