Data Viz Gets Physical

While many are busy churning out formulaic infographics, it’s great to see others being considerably more creative.  Some endeavour to come up with new forms of visualisation, and others focus on gathering new data or experimenting with design.

The visualisations featured in this post explore the use of different materials for representing data.  I was prompted to write this post by the latest edition of Visualisation Magazine (the handmade volume).

I did see a post criticising one of the visualisations I’ve included here for its lack of scientific accuracy, but I think that was missing the point.  There have been some hot debates on such topics in data visualisation recently, and they are worthwhile conversations.  And if accuracy was the goal of the following pieces, they could justifiably come under scrutiny.  But if the intent was to challenge the way we think about visualisations and capture people’s attention with something new and curious, for my money, they succeeded.

With that said, I hope you enjoy the collection…

Data Visualisation made from Hazard Tape wrapped round a fence


Data Visualisation photograph of men wrapped in hazard tape
















Many of the entries in this post are by Jose Duarte.  If you visit Jose’s Flickr profile, you might be able to get a free Handmade Visualisation Toolkit from him.

And for more physical visualisations, check out Visualisation Magazine.

UPDATE:  One more example I forgot to include:

AIDS, Homophobia and Wild Tigers [GRAPHS]

The Death Rate from AIDS is Dropping

That was the story of last Friday’s Daily Chart from the Economist.  The chart was a visualisation of rare qualities.  It delivered news of genuine importance, and not only that, but the graph was moving in a positive direction.

The latter characteristic made me smile.  The former reminded me just how trivial many visualisations can be.  But here was some real news being represented for a change (see chart below).

Bar graph showing a decline in deaths from AIDS

And no sooner had I read the article in the Economist than I found another piece of positive news in graphic form.

Attitudes towards gay people in the US are improving…

according to Gallup’s annual Values & Beliefs poll, as shown below.


Line Graph from Gallup showing improving attitudes towards gay relationships in the US

via I Love Charts


One more chart appeared on my radar last Friday reporting something of genuine importance.  It wasn’t good news this time however.

Wild Tigers Could Be Extinct by 2022

Poster from the WWF with a graph showing Wild Tigers Could Be Extinct by the year 2022

Image via I LoveCharts


You can find out more about the WWF’s campaign to Save the Tigers here.

Staying with the charts for a second, it was great to see 3 pieces of real newsworthy content displayed so simply and effectively in graphic form.  With my hopes for visualisation pleasantly renewed, I’ll be keeping my eye out for more.

I’ll report back on my findings.

PS  If you have a moment, please do check out the WWF site about the tigers –