A few of us on the ZingChart team read Scott McCloud’s new graphic novel The Sculptor. It is a fast-paced story with a bittersweet message. We’d recommend the book to anyone, but we’re also excited to share some dataviz we made about the story.

Spoiler alert: we’ve tried to keep the charts pretty neutral, but some information about the narrative will be revealed in our visualizations. But if you want to know more about the book, do read on!

A little background

image of the sculptor book
In The Sculptor, we meet a young artist named David Smith. He has wanted to be a sculptor since he was a young child. He finds success early in life, but it is not long lasting. His drive to be a famous, admired sculptor drives him to keep working despite a series of professional and personal setbacks.

At the brink of giving up, David makes a deal with Death. We won’t tell you the details of their agreement. But David receives the ability sculpt anything with his bare hands. And this is where the visuals in the book get really creative.

Dataviz of Sculptures

Our first dataviz idea was to plot the height of each sculpture as it appears chronologically in the book. Of course, we have to estimate this based on the illustrations.

Pretty straightforward bar or column chart showing the height of the sculptures in the book. Wondering why there are some negative values in this chart? Well you’ll just have to read the book to see those works of art!

After completing this chart, we looked at our copy of the novel. We had used sticky notes to mark where the sculptures enter the story, and we noticed a gap in the middle of the book.

photo of our bookmarks in the sculptor for making dataviz

So then we realized there was an opportunity to visualize the data related to page numbers in the book.

The result is a scatter plot that shows the number of sculptures that appear on each page of the book. This chart showed some outlier pages with many sculptures illustrated. But it eliminated the height information. We wanted to combine both data sets.

The final product is a bubble chart that shows the size of the sculptures and the pages on which they appear.

Bubble charts in dataviz

Bubble charts are multi-variable graphs. They look like a scatter plot, but contain proportional data, as well. Points are plotted on a grid where the X and Y axes are different variables. Then, each point is assigned a category, which represents the third variable. Additional variables can be introduced with:

  • Color
  • Brightness
  • Opacity

Bubble chart best practices

If you have too many overlapping bubbles, the chart can be hard to read. Interactivity can help with this, as seen in the example above, where we added tooltips to differentiate overlapping bubbles.

It is also important to note that we took some artistic license with our bubble chart. We assigned size groupings a category number. In scientific charts, the bubble size is based off of precise area calculations.

Using bubble charts in ZingChart

Including bubble charts in a ZingChart project is similar to any other chart type. Begin by specifying the chart type within your graphset:

{  
    "graphset":[  
        {     
            "type":"bubble",  

Then add your data. The format in a series is "x-axis, y-axis, bubble-value.” The color variation is achieved by separating the data into groups of values.

    "series":[  
        {  
            "values":[  
                [1,15,4],  

ZingChart also offers a few additional ways to customize your bubble charts, including:

  • Scaling for the type of data you have (radius, square root, or area)
  • Size factor to change all the bubbles at once

Bubbles in your dataviz

Do you use bubble charts in your dataviz projects? Share your best practices with us in the comments below. We’d love to see visuals, too!