Information is Beautiful Activity

In his TED presentation David McCandless talks about his career as a “data detective” and shows some of the infographics he has produced.  He offers the metaphor “data is the new soil” as a modification of “data is the new oil.”  He also describes data visualization as a “form of knowledge compression” and says that “design is about solving problems and providing elegant solutions.”  Consider the infographics that McCandless shared in his TED talk and describe how he uses them to support these statements.


24 Responses to "Information is Beautiful Activity"

  • In David McCandless’s TED talk show, he explains why he believes “data is the new soil”. He stands by his opinion because he discusses how the way data is collected and presented has to move with all of the changes and advaces in our environment. Data is the new “soil” because everyone depends on it, the issue is just how to present it in an elegant, intelligent, and simple way.
    One of McCandless’s excellent examples, “The Billion Dollar-O-Gram” shows how the United States has been doing with their funding and spendings throught the last few years. This infographic is a great example of how to collect so much useful data and put it in a neat, organized design to make the information so much easier for the viewer to understand and learn. David McCandless said, “design is about solving problems and providing elegant solutions”. By this he means that by putting issues together in information graphs, it is easier to see the solution to that problem.

    1 Callie Wysor said this (October 3, 2011 at 1:06 am)

  • David McCandless uses several inforgrpahics to explain his phrase modified ” data is the new oil” into ” data is the new soil.” He says this because data is everywhere and can be very helpful for everyone looking for a specific explanation with infographics. It relates to each other becasue by the saying ” data is the the new soil” it means that it puts data into graphs laying down an explanation and ways of communication without talking.

    He uses the the Billion-Dollar-O-Gram to depict how many billions of dollars are being spent each year in the United States. This could be very confusing and tidious by looking at each one of the squares one by one, but with Mr. McCandless putting it all together as one infographic makes it alot easier for people to understand using colors and sizes.

    The Billion-Dollar-O-Gram is also a good example of “knowledge compression” because it puts forth a bunch of information of where money is spent in the United States into a simple infographic easily understood by sizes and shapes.

    2 jono31 said this (October 2, 2011 at 11:44 pm)

  • McCandless uses the metaphor “data is the new soil” to describe how data is essential to today’s changing world. The infographics that he presents in his TED talk show the rapid change of information in today’s economy. The military budget graphic really showed his point by giving a representation of a set of data that has grown rapidly in the past years. It also shows how data is essential to the economy. Today’s economy is so driven by statistics and strange numbers that it has become necessary to represent that data in an easily understood way.

    3 cmackey said this (October 2, 2011 at 8:17 pm)

  • David McCandless in TED explores a variety of infographics and says that “Data is the new soil”. He says this because he feels like it is fertile and creative media. He says that they irrigate through the networks of creativity that is laid down by media and data. Infographics are a creative way of expressing that data in many different ways and though many different types of graphs. He states in some way these are like the flowers (infographics) that sprout from the already laid down soil (data/media)and is just waiting to be expressed and sprouted. McCandless considers himself a “data detective” because he uses data that other people have gathered to make connections and infographics to express the data in a simpler and creative way.

    He also talks about data visualization as a “form of knowledge compression” and says that “design is about solving problems and providing elegant solutions.” One of the infographics that he went through explaining that shows this would be the interactive “Snake Oil? The Evidence For Nutritional Supplements” graph. This shows solutions to problems because it informs the audience about what supplements are worth investigating for their nutritional value. This is also a form of knowledge compression because there is such a vast amount of supplements and information about health and supplements into one single graph. Another example of an infographic that shows these aspects is the political spectrum “The Left vs The Right” graph. The vast amount of information that is in this graph helps people understand see what others think and where they are coming from. This is a lot of qualities compressed into a single comparison graph that helps solve another issue of seeing the differences between the two political sides.

    4 awitmer said this (October 1, 2011 at 3:58 pm)

  • When David McCandless talk about data being the new soil, he means that data can be used as a foundation to grow our ideas and knowledge, and build upon that. He describes data visualization as data compression because it is a way to get a lot of information to fit in one small area and make it easier to understand. This idea is shown in graphs like “Mountains out of Molehills”, because it shows the intensity of the fear in many different events, not just one. If you were to just see a chart with numbers describing the same situations, it would be too hard to read and you would not get all of the information that you could get from the picture. Same goes for the “Billion Dollar-O-Gram.” There is a lot of information, and even in the picture, it’s hard to see where everything is and really know what you were looking at, but if you tried to look at the same data just written down, you would have a lot more trouble seeing what you could see easily in the infographic. David uses his infographics to show how you can make it easier to get information across and be able to compare information when it is laid out in picture form.

    5 Derek Anderson said this (October 1, 2011 at 3:45 pm)

  • David McCandless stated in his TED presentation about infographics is that “data is the new soil” not “data is the new oil”. What he means by this is statement is data now can be collected from many things and be put into one simple explanation in order for people to understand. In the beginning of his presentation he stated the only way to understand date is, “visualizing information so we can see patterns and connections that matter”. For example, in the Snake Oil graph, David McCandless explains the different supplements that are good for you and are worth buying. He stated that with this infographic he was able to scrap over 1000 studies and was able to put it into one easy,simple to read graph. This also is a good example of his statement as data visualization as a “form of knowledge compression”, which shows how infographics is the best way to compress a lot of information into one thing .

    6 thensley18 said this (September 28, 2011 at 9:39 am)

  • In McCandless’ TED presentation, he drops the phrases “knowledge compression” and “data is the new soil”. By knowledge compression, he means the capacity of infographics to condense vast amounts of information into orderly, easily understandable visuals. For example, the “Snake Oil” graph combines an immense amount of information into a fairly simplistic visual. Not only does the graph illustrate the commonly held conceptions of holistic remedies, but the amount of scientific support each remedy has garnered. He even goes a step further, adding the sidebar to further stratify the data in the graph. By the phrase “data is the new soil”, he means to convey the idea that data can give birth to new ideas and perspectives. An example of this would be the Military Budget comparisons. While the initial figures confirm our preconceived notions, when he puts the numbers in perspective we see a whole new picture. China may have the largest army, but proportionally they only rank 24th. The metaphor of data being the new soil fits wonderfully in this case, showing how perspective can be changed through the effective use of infographics.

    –Joe Midolo

    7 caliban said this (September 27, 2011 at 10:04 pm)

  • In David McCandless’ TED talk he describes data visualization as a “form of knowledge compression” and says that “design is about solving problems and providing elegant solutions”. All of McCandless’ infographics are very appealing to the eye and clearly portray the information. McCandless’ infographics are very informative, such as the Timeline of Media Panic. This infographic studies the fears of multiple subjects such as the swine flu, video game content, and killer wasps. McCandless studied this particular data to see if there was any further information or trends located in this data. McCandless noticed a trend within the data presented for video game content; there were twin peaks in all the larger peaks. He went to further notice that these peaks occurred in April and November of each year. November is an easy month to discover why media feared the content because that’s when most video games come out for Christmas time. When you try to relate April to the fear of video game content nothing immediately comes to mind but McCandless realized that in April 1999 the Columbine Shooting occurred. McCandless noticed another trend that effected all of the data that there was a game in September 2001 because we experienced something very real in America that allowed us to fear something very real so there were no other news outbreaks of the other minor fears. McCandless took simple data he collected by researching news outbreaks and came up with these solutions and explanations of why the data acted as it did. Solving these problems and discovering the reasoning behind the data supports McCandless point that “design is about solving problems and providing elegant solutions”. McCandless also points out that data visualization is a “form of knowledge compression” which is a way to take an enormous amount of information and allow the eyes to see it in one view. This also allows the eye to compare the data portrayed to find such relationships because one can always continue to look for relationships and trends in data especially since data is always changing.

    8 lbraney said this (September 27, 2011 at 9:12 pm)

  • When David Mccandless said that data is the new soil, it really resonated with me regarding the graph Mountains out of molehills. By him changing the phrase from data is the new oil to data is the new soil it shows how as the tv focused on certain points, the new information planted in our minds and out grew this fear. So by saying that information is the new soil, he is really saying that information is the soil for all thoughts.

    9 nadyasyed said this (September 27, 2011 at 9:08 pm)

  • McCandless uses the statement data compression to describe the process of combining all of the data you are trying to show in correlation along with the relationships amongst the data as well as making it easily understandable. The many infographics he showed were perfect examples of this, especially the political graphics, because he had to look up and research all of the information he got and combine it all into one great infographic so that the intended audiences could understand his points. He stated “design is about solving problems and providing elegant solutions.” I agree with this because not everyone is perfect, so problems that need solving are common, but infographics help provide that easiness to get that point across to other audiences.

    -Kevin Le

    10 devangel426 said this (September 27, 2011 at 5:00 pm)

  • McCandless uses the statement data compression to describe the process of combining all of the data you are trying to show in relation and making it understandable. The many infographics he showed were pretty much all examples of this. Especially the political graphic, he had to look up and research every piece of information and combine all so that we as the audience could understand and get a good sense of the big picture and the purpose of the graphics. He also says “design is about solving problems and providing elegant solutions.” I really believe this is true. Everyone has problems that need solving, but what infographics do is provide you with a way to get your point across in the most effective way possible. In just about every graphic he showed there was some degree of elegance critical to convey the meaning of the graph. In the political graphic in order to exclude a bias both sides had to look symmetrical and in order to cram all of that info into a graphic you have to be able to present it effectively.

    11 Marina said this (September 27, 2011 at 3:48 pm)

  • This was a very interesting video and appreciated his enthusiasm for infographic making. McCandless uses his graphs to portray the idea that “data is the new soil” and explains to the audience the importance of graphical representation. He also states that “beauty is detective” , feeling that way because while making an infographic it’s possible to find new information and trends that you had not expected to see, like in his “Breakup’s According to Facebook ” graph. McCandless believes that infographics are a “form of knowledge compression”, they can take a vast amount of information and but it on a single chart, like his “Billion-O-Dollargram” graph. A reason someone might make a graph is to solve a problem visually, and McCandless states that “design is about solving problems and providing elegant solutions”, basically saying that some answers to solutions are very complicated and making them into a graph allows the solution to be less cluttered and straightforward.

    12 Claudia Autore said this (September 27, 2011 at 1:53 pm)

  • In his TED talk, David McCandless talks about data visualization as a “form of knowledge compression”. This is shown in his graphic for “The Evidence For Nutritional Supplements”, where he takes the popularity of a supplement and compares it to the evidence supporting that supplement. For a person with questions about what kind of supplements should they take, this diagram becomes very helpful because it compacts a large amount of data into a small, understandable graphic. If a person were to find the same data in word form it would not be as effective and not as easy to compare multiple different supplements. With this graphic and compacted data, it is easy to see what supplements are worth taking and what supplements are most popular.
    McCandless also says “design is about solving problems and providing elegant solutions.” This is represented in his graphic on the political spectrum. Unlike the graphic on supplements, this shows less numerical data and more qualitative information. It has a good amount of information in it and gives a kind of summery to the political spectrum of the United States. It makes information that is often a headache for most Americans more understandable in a creative and “elegant” way.

    13 Heather Kennedy said this (September 26, 2011 at 10:30 pm)

  • In McCandless’ TED talk, he emphasizes how so much information can be put into a single infographic because data visualization is a “form of knowledge compression”. He uses infographics to show that the data can be based on many different variables or multiple factors. In the Billion Dollar-O-Gram infographic, he shows how huge amounts of data are compressed and put into a single graphical analysis. If you think about the data, record of every expenditure and the highest had to be figured out. Another phrase that McCandless used was “data is the new soil”. He says that data can be conjured up from existing data and knowledge. One example of such was the military budget infograph. He compared how much money a country has to spend versus the countries total worth. These two phrases allow us to look at infographics in a different way and show us that not everything is just black and white.

    14 Kaleb Nguyen said this (September 26, 2011 at 8:50 am)

  • David McCandless in his TED presentation talks about how that data visualization is the “form of knowledge compression.” In one of his examples he showed a Bandwidth of Five Senses infographic that displayed how people take in knowledge as people try to understand an infographic with sight being the first thing that we compress down to hearing. He then goes on to say that “design is about solving problems and providing elegant solutions.” One of his examples that probably shows this is his Nutritional Supplements infographic. In this he showed all of the supplements/vitamins combined but he was able to categorize certain supplements with his program and this “solves problems and gives solutions” by letting a person know what kind of supplement one should have depending on their health or well being. One of his other quotes was “data is the new soil” as opposed to “data is the new oil.” One example that may apply to this could be his Biggest Military Budget graphic showing how that we may have the biggest budget but not in GDP and that may change one day. Overall, I guess he is explaining that infographics in general can experience a growth or change through the creative minds that people think about.

    15 kwilfong said this (September 25, 2011 at 9:23 pm)

  • David McCandless talked about a few different topics in his TED presentation one of the topics was the idea of elegant ways to display data. I thought that there were a few graphs that really expressed elegance. The first was the one about the accurate proportions of countries military budget and by showing them in proportion to the size of a country then you will be able to better process the information. Also another infographic that was not only elegant, but also sophisticated was nutritional supplements. It is elegant because it is interactive to the viewer because the information that is being given is very prevalent to the world population because it seems as though everyone wants to know what is in everything and whether it is all-natural. These two graphics best convey for me the idea of elegance in a graphic.

    16 kgorslin said this (September 25, 2011 at 8:55 pm)

  • When David Mccandless says, ” data is the new oil, data is the new soil” he is refering to its fertility and its immersion in everything we do. It is both an overload and a new frontier. He is taking something that is difficult and condenses it into something that is simple but is actually intricate. He takes the problems and provides elegant solutions. Design is taking something inconveniant or saturated and condensing it into easly consumed visuals.

    17 dberman said this (September 25, 2011 at 8:30 pm)

  • David McCandless used various infographics to portray information in unique and very informative ways. Infographics are a way to show the most information in one piece and McCandless was able explain is theory of “knowledge compression” by showing many of his infographics that showed data based on multiple factors. He used the phrase “Data is the new soil” as opposed to “Data is the new oil”. McCandless shows how new data can be derived from already existing data and knowledge. For example, with the military budgets, he took the data and put it into comparison/relationship to the Countries total worth, Once done, it truly put everything into perspective and reality. As with the peak break-up times and the video game sales graphs, it was fascinating to see how he made connections that explained the data. By observing these trends and connections, many people and companies should be able to make solutions to the questions and problems that they have.

    18 bgeorge said this (September 25, 2011 at 7:54 pm)

  • In his TED talk, McCandless talks about the different infographics he has produced and talks about their importance. In his “Biggest Military Budget” graph, he explained how things we see are not always the “absolute” truth when looking at just one aspect of a set of data. Though data visualization is a form of knowledge compression, it is more beneficial to know the entire background of a set of data before making certain assumptions. For example, when he showed us the military graph, the US seemed to have the largest military in the world. But as the population density of each country was also taken into account, the US was knocked down the list. You can’t compress data so much that it warps the actual truth, but you have to know how to present data in a way that conveys your point. A lot of research has to go in to making these graphs and making them presentable and deciding which ones to show the public.
    McCandless also says that information design is about “solving problems and providing elegant solutions”. I think the “Nutritional Supplements” infographic successfully portrays this point. Obesity is a big problem in the states and in other parts of the world, and people are always looking for ways to loose weight, whether it’s by taking dietary supplements or going to the gym 24/7. This infographic was aesthetically pleasing, and the use of geometric shapes really caught my eye. It’s not a simple bar chart that just shows the most common nutritional supplements and which ones are reputable, but an interactive diagram that conveys information easily and effectively. I thought that the idea of an interactive chart was a really great idea because people in general learn more effectively by doing things rather than just listening to a lecture or watching a video. If people have the ability to get involved, they will learn better and take away more from the presentation.

    19 mjohri said this (September 25, 2011 at 5:54 pm)

  • David McCandless proved in this video that presenting data through infographics is one of the best ways to share and explain information to others. David McCandless went on to explain that “design is about solving problems and providing elegant solutions.” This quote from Mr. McCandless describes the importance between the visual aspect of an infograph and the overall information being presented. The relationship between the design and the information is key when designing an inforgraph. If the visual aspect of the infograph is unclear, then the data will be unclear to the viewers. The best infograph, in my opinion, that displayed the importance of being both clear and effective was “The Billion Dollar O-Gram.” Through this infograph, David McCandless was able to compare the billions of dollars spent around the world and allow us to visualize the data (60 billion dollars compared to 200 billion dollars for ex.). Infographics like this allows us to understand complex issues. Another infograph that David McCandless presented in a creative and effective way was the “Sense in Computer Terms.” This infograph allowed us to understand how our senses work in relation to a computer. By doing this, we were able to understand which senses are used most in a creative, yet easy to understand way. Even though David McCandless never went to design or art school, he was still able to determine ways to capture the viewers attention in both a curious and informative way. The most important aspect of an infograph is allowing the observer to understand and remember the information being presented which I feel David McCandless was able to do in both his presentation and the infographs he’s used.

    20 Nicholas Kent said this (September 25, 2011 at 5:48 pm)

  • The metaphor of “data is the new oil” was originally stated as a means of comparing the value and omnipresence of data to one of the world’s most relied-upon fuels. It extends to include the notion of data “fueling” future growth, becoming an increasingly important necessity in global business and communication. McCandless’ alteration of the metaphor underscores the importance of data as being both the source of information (for example, the process of data mining employed by researchers) as well as the integral building block for construction of useful presentations of information- infographics.
    For example, the abundance of data in the form of Facebook updates becomes the soil from which McCandless and his team is able to extract a count of relationship-related posts and then present a timeline of spikes in breakups. Although the importance of such an investigation is questionable, the same sort of approach is applied to the news media panic timeline, highlighting periods of time where the hype over an unlikely disease or outrage against violent video games is overblown.
    Data visualizations incorporate this large amount of information and present it in a streamlined, simple manner so that a large demographic is able to access the intended message. This encompasses both his definition as a “form of knowledge compression” and his theory of design as a means of “solving problems and providing elegant solutions.” One of his best examples of this is the Billion-Dollar-O-Gram, a visual comparison of the value of extremely large sums of money. The problem, as he presents it during the TED talk is that most people have become desensitized to the fact that a billion dollars is a huge amount, and the media tends to throw out a value without a comparison, leaving it open to distortion. Although the infographic he creates is not the most self-explanatory, it effectively reduces a vast amount of global fiscal information to some color-coded squares that give context to how much a certain amount of money is. One of the clearest (and most startling) examples he presents is that the US is considered one of the most generous nations philanthropically, yet the amount it donates is one of the smallest squares on the page. Despite social and cultural barriers, the world’s budgetary information is condensed down to a few pages and open for comparative scrutiny.

    21 Brooke Andrews said this (September 25, 2011 at 4:41 pm)

  • David McCandless uses several infographics to describe the significance of data in our world. He uses several phrases that summarize the influence that data-in the form of inforgraphics- has on society.
    He uses the phrase “data is the new soil” as a different version of “data is the new oil.” It is helpful that many people can relate to the phrase “data is the new oil” and it is well known. It is well known because we constantly need oil. This indicates that data-in the same way as oil- is necessary for everyday functions. In his version he says that it is the new “soil” meaning that it serves as a place to plant new ideas and allow information to grow. The infographic “Mountains out of Molehills” can explain how data is the new soil because when people are exposed to information about crises, it is clear how rapidly ideas grow and spread.
    Data is a “form of knowledge compression” because so much of it can fit into a small graph. The scales and comparisons allow infographic creators to take a group of statistics and combine them to explain something to their audience. Huge numbers are put into the “The Billion Dollar-O-Gram” in order to compare the highest expenditures around the world. Records had to be kept for every time an organization spent money around the world. All these records were narrowed down and the highest were taken into account to produce the diagram.
    “Design solves problems and provides elegant solutions” by taking true information and organizing it so that audiences can understand. McCandless’ example in the “Snake Oil?” chart takes numbers from supplements and distributes them in sections. The ability of the infographic to shrink certain categories can solve problems when trying to organize and understand the components of health supplements.

    22 Mo Sunderland said this (September 25, 2011 at 3:26 pm)

  • In David McCandless TED presentation he describes data visualization as a “form of knowledge compression” to show how large quantities of data can be put into context and compressed into graphs to show an overall trend or message. An example of this form of data visualization is what he describes as, “A landscape of the worlds fears,” in his “Media Panic” diagram. This graph shows a variety of different fears reported in the media over a time period. His x-axis is labeled with the time period and the y-axis is a fear meter represented by the height of the mountain. He uses different colors to represent different fears and shows trends of certain fears by the variations of the mountains peaks. He goes on to describe himself as a “data detective” as he finds hidden messages or trends in the data, such as the peaks in the violent videogame landscape during the months of November and April. The holiday rush to purchase new videogames justifies the peak in November. The peak in April is explained by the increase in fear because the Columbine shooting occurred in this month. Finding and analyzing these hidden messages in his infographics is what makes them so interesting. He simplifies very complex data to make it clear, understandable and pleasing to the viewers.
    David McCandless adapts the metaphor “data is the new oil” to “data is the new soil” because he describes data as a “new fertile medium” that has evolved and blossomed over the years. He goes on to depict infographics and visualizations as flowers growing from this soil. These data visualizations will continue to develop and flourish over the years to help people understand the tendencies and trends of certain issues or ideas shown by infographics.

    23 kshavala said this (September 25, 2011 at 3:09 pm)

  • The phrases David McCandless uses in this video are cohesive ideas that make an infographics’ message easier to understand. By displaying information visually, a person can have a better grasp of what it is being presented in front of them. The inforgraphics can change the way people view things, by giving the audience an image of what information can look like and making connections to other information.
    In a sense, all people are “data detectives”(as Mr.McCandless says), because they have to discern data from an over-stimulating world. Every day, people get snipets of data, and this can be overwhelming and confusing, like for example the different usage of money in the United States. These numbers overwhelmed Mr.McCandless so much, that he decided to “investigate” how he could make sense of this information, by collecting number data and grouping it in different categories of how much of the money is being spent overall and in what is being spent, thus creating a relationship and visually deciphering a mystery. (The Billion Dollar-O-Gram).
    When one has the critical thinking mind and common sense to “sleuth” information well, one can learn a lot by observing data from many perspectives. Mr.McCandless uses the “Biggest Military Budget” infograph to demonstrate how different values can change belief that the United States can take over the world with all of its militia, because we know that they have the biggest military budget in the world, but when it comes to who has the biggest GDP, it holds the 8th place compared to other countries. Therefore, by bringing other data in, a balance is created, which brings a fair bias and a much broader understanding to the information presented.
    This is why the idea that “information is new soil”, instead of “new oil”: because it puts together data that “births” connections and springs forth new ideas that lay the foundation for others to create new messages in new, innovative ways.

    24 Ileana Perez said this (September 24, 2011 at 9:08 pm)