The ZingChart team recently came by a copy of The Best American Infographics 2014. And as the cover says, “Infographics have this wonderful ability to inspire people to act.” So we’ve sprung into action with a review of this latest in our series of reviews of books about data visualization.

Infographics For Your Coffee Table

The Best American Infographics 2014 is a who’s who of data visualization experts. It is edited by Gareth Cook and the introduction is by Nate Silver. There are three main sections into which the infographics are organized. Each is chock-full of well-known names in the data visualization field, including team members from:

Who Picked These Infographics, Anyway?

The infographics selected were chosen by a “brain trust” of data visualization notables, including:

Infographics of Note

We’re sharing some of the infographics in the book that really stood out for us.

Email: Not Dead, Evolving

This infographic from the Harvard Business Review challenges that statement we keep hearing every couple of years: “Email is dead.” It features an innovative use of stacked bar charts- each one is sized wide enough to support a block of text above to explain key details within.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="622"]infographic with stacked bar chart and pictogram

ZingChart team member Nick checks out the infographic about email.

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The second page is one simple, yet powerful pictogram that relates to two of the bars in the final stacked bar. Using dots and annotations, this chart tells us some important things with just a glance:

  • The majority of the emails we get are blocked
  • The bulk of blocked emails are for pharmaceutical spam
    This infographic would be even cooler if it were interactive. Some tooltips would reduce the amount of text that needs to be read. Additionally, the bars in the stacked bar chart could be made clickable to reveal the large pictogram. This would add drama. A little animation on the pictogram would also help to reveal each item and engage the user a bit more as each topic is displayed.

Is Your State’s Highest-Paid Employee a Coach? (Probably)

This chart was originally published on Deadspin.com where the topic is always related to sports. It is easy to read when printed across two pages, but interactive features could make it easier to read when displayed on smaller screens.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="552"]map infographic

ZingCharter Kevyn peruses the map infographic.

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This map is just simple. Doesn’t require a lot of explanation with three colors and big labels. If you were making this map with ZingChart, you could make the legend interactive, to isolate the states by category. A similar map example can be found in our gallery. We used tooltips for the state names, which in this case, could be updated to include the category or even the individual person’s name and position through the use of tokens.

Bieber vs. Bieber

We kind of wanted to include this infographic from the National Post just because of the title. It is humorous, but surprisingly had a lot of charts when compared to many infographics we see online.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="572"]Bieber infographic with annotations

ZingChart intern Micah gets the details on Bieber.

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Outside of the hairstyle comparison chart (which could be made in ZingChart with images), there are some bar charts that display Bieber’s concert revenue. These charts have an interesting design feature in which the highest bar is a darker color blue. This can be accomplished in ZingChart through the use of rules.

In addition, there is an area chart about the search activity related to Bieber fever. As a print item, it uses annotations with letters to provide more information. ZingChart can create annotations as well, although in this case, tooltips would be a more effective way to show all these details in an interactive online chart. You can see how we accomplished a similar effect in our comic book data visualization we recreated.

*The Best and Worst Major Areas for Poor, Middle-Class and Rich Children *

On a more serious note, there is a New York Times infographic about income and future earning opportunities, which features a rankflow chart. We do not see this chart used in infographics very often.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="564"]infographic with rankflow chart

ZingChart teammate Chloe examines this NY Times infographic.

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What is particularly interesting about this rankflow chart is the width of the line for each item. It varies in thickness based on the size of the city being ranked. Not many JavaScript charting libraries offer rankflow charts, but ZingChart does. We made a rankflow demo on a much lighter subject: craft beer.

Another interesting thing we noticed in this infographic was the use of color. The gradients make it easier to read both charts. This reminds us of the importance of color selection in data visualizations, something we blogged about recently.

Across US Companies, Tax Rates Vary Greatly

Dataviz legend Mike Bostock from the New York Times brings us the last infographic we’re going to talk about. This one is designed to be interactive.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="512"]interactive infographic with bubble chart

ZingChart fan Merrily gets granular with the bubble chart infographic.

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The bubble chart shows how tax rates are imposed across countries in the S&P 500. Bubble charts have the potential to be visually confusing. But if your scales are selected properly, they can be quite effective. We made a bubble chart about NCAA basketball to test this.

The interactive feature of the chart allows you to drill down by industry. You can even click on an individual bubble to get tax rate, taxes paid, and earnings of a specific company. This accomplished through the effective use of tooltips. The chart also shows the power of online interactive charts to provide users with the ability to get granular and really explore a data set.

What Are Your Favorite Infographics?

Have you seen any great infographics this year? Whether or not they made it into this book, let us know about them in the comments section below. We’ll take a look!