Join Bill Shander for an in-depth discussion in this video The big idea, part of Designing a Data Visualization.
- Coming up with a new project, for me, is really just thinking about what it is that I want to think about. So for this project I decided to start off small. If you look at this picture, you see that little white, sort of light-colored speck in the right-hand side of the picture, in the middle of that brown band? That's Earth. This picture was taken by Voyager 1 spacecraft from about six billion kilometers from Earth in 1990. It's small, right? I was thinking very small. I only decided that I just wanted to investigate what is the best country on Earth.
Small, right? Of course, the idea of the best of anything is completely subjective, and ridiculous. I needed to define what I meant by that, and I figured I would focus on the best country to be born and to live in as a human. Still may be sort of a big idea, but it's containable, right, I can sort of figure how to define what that means. A lot of people have done a lot of thinking about this subject, and are measuring different things to get to answers. So for instance there's this website, the Happy Planet Index, and their tag line, or one of the ways they define it, is that this is leading global measure of sustainable well-being, so very focused on sustainability.
They take some data from polling, and from a source that I'm not familiar with, so I decided I wasn't too sure whether this was something I wanted to work on, but it's an interesting website, and interesting data, for sure. Then there's this website, the OECD Better Life Index, from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. This measures a lot of different things, but for a much more limited set of countries, only OECD countries. So, once again, really interesting information, this particular visualization project is pretty interesting as well, but I really wanted to look at every country in Earth, so this was too limiting for me.
So as I was looking for data to work with, I pretty quickly came across the UN, and decided that that was gonna be the source for the information that I needed. The UN obviously being the most global of global organizations, very trusted resource for data, they also happen to have something that they call Human Development Reports. And so what's human development? So human development is, as it says here, about expanding the richness of human life, rather than simply the richness of the economy in which human beings live. It's an approach that's focused on people and their opportunities and choices.
So frequently these days we measure countries by their GDP, just their economic output, but like in Bhutan, when they're trying to measure their happiness index, how happy are people, this is pretty similar. What are the opportunities available to people in certain countries? So this is really exactly what I needed, I needed a very trusted, reliable, global source, an interesting data set to measure where is the best place to be as a human being on Earth. So, what is the actual Human Development Index? Well it is the single number that they use in order to make up these reports, it's sort of where these reports come from.
And the Index, if I go into the Data section, is really made up by a bunch of things, but primarily, the Human Development Index and its components, as available in this table of data right here, really comes down to just three things. Human development is measured by life expectancy in each country, by the educational opportunity in each country, which is, actually sort of starts at, is these two numbers, as well as the gross national income per capita. So those three things, life expectancy, education, and income, are all sort of factored into this one overall Human Development Index score, HDI score.
You'll also notice that I'm using data that's available to me right now on the UN's website, so it is numbers from 2013, some of it's from 2012, this was all the data used in the 2014 version of the Human Development reports. So of course you might be using with more up-to-date data, it should be in the same format, and should be easy to work with, in just the same way as we're doing today in this course. You should be able to follow along, and work with the data from the current website. If not, we have of course, the source data available for you in the exercise files tab on this page.
The UN Human Development Index used in this course is a perfect example: a composite number used to rank countries on how well they're doing across a range of measures (such as health, wealth, and education). Instructor Bill Shander shows how to make this index data tangible and approachable by imagining the story and visual approach first. He then builds the design in Adobe Illustrator, capitalizing on some automation and scripting abilities the program offers. Start watching for unique insights into the entire data visualization process.
- Working with the data
- Sketching and wireframing your design
- Roughing out the visual design components
- Manually creating the design in Illustrator
- Using Illustrator scripting to improve accuracy, speed, and repeatability
- Designing callout boxes, legends, labels, and more