Bianca Montrosse on Innovative Data Displays

My name is Bianca Montrosse and I am a Research and Evaluation Specialist with the SERVE Center at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Since receiving my first Edward R. Tufte book as a gift, I’ve been searching for ways to visually articulate data that are both innovative and informative. Below are some rad resources and a cool trick that I have encountered during this quest.

Rad resource: Two lectures on are particularly fascinating in terms of conveying complex information in an interesting way. Hans Rosling’s lecture entitled, “Let my dataset change your mindset” uses data-bubble software ( about the developing world to address common misconceptions. The lecture can be viewed here: For those of us who commonly work with data collected over multiple time points, I think the possibilities are limitless.

The other lecture is by JoAnn Kuchera-Morin. In the lecture, she demos the Allosphere which she describes as a new way to see, here, and interpret scientific data. While I suspect the ability to create similar presentations with evaluation data are hindered by a number of factors, what I appreciate about her lecture is that she has incorporated multiple mediums to convey complex information. And, that is the lesson I take away from this lecture and try to apply in my own evaluation work. JoAnn Kuchera-Morin’s lecture can be viewed at

Cool Trick: Stuck in a rut visually displaying your qualitative data? Try a word cloud. The one I prefer is Wordle because the software gives prominence to words that appear more frequently. So, words that are mentioned most often appear larger in font than those mentioned less often.

Rad Resource: Looking for other innovative visual displays to get your creative juices flowing? Check out the human trafficking poster created by Taulant Bushi ( to show the number of individuals smuggled into and out of countries worldwide. Whether you zoom out or zoom it, it’s quite an impressive display of a lot of information. Another example is Good Magazine’s comparison of the first 100 days of 13 U.S. Presidents. I think this one does a particular good job of conveying information concerning a number of different data points over time.

This contribution is from the aea365 Daily Tips blog, by and for evaluations, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to

5 thoughts on “Bianca Montrosse on Innovative Data Displays”

  1. Pingback: Susan Kistler on Welcoming the Data Visualization & Reporting TIG and DVR Resources | AEA365

  2. Thanks for drawing attention to Rosling’s data visualisation, along with the other hints. Since the online publication of his lecture last year it has made the TED site a must-visit.

    There they point out that the Gapminder software has been sold to Google. The good news is that we can create the graphics using spreadsheets in Google Docs, and publish them online. Details at .

    The other good news is that Google has a variety of other gadgets for innovative visualisation for use within Google spreadsheets.


  3. Hi Bianca,

    Thanks for the great resources. Data visualization methods are kind of a passion of mine. Although there are excellent web apps (such as Wordle) which makes effective and aesthetically-pleasing visualization easy, I find that some other mediums require the researcher to have some skills in vector-based design (such as the wonderful human trafficking poster you noted). But, I truly do believe the sky’s the limit in the ways that one can creatively display data.

  4. Bianca,

    Great resources – I am a Hans Rosling groupie. He makes data compelling so that it truly tells a story. Thanks so much for sharing these.

    Two items of possible note:

    1. Those interested in Wordle, may want to check out SaraJoy Pond’s January 15 post on the aea365 blog as it focused on wordle – scroll down for the comments too as they offer further examples of use

    2. The International Development Research Centre posted a link on twitter to an intriguing data display – a crowd sourced crisis map of incidents in Haiti. I shared that on AEA’s LinkedIn group and there is a discussion going on there regarding how this might be usable for post-aid evaluation.

    Here is the link to the crisis map:

    And, for those interested and on LinkedIn, here is the link to the LinkedIn discussion:

    Here’s the info about the map:

    This Crisis Map of Haiti represents the most comprehensive and up-to-date crisis map available to the humanitarian community. The information here is mapped in near real time and gathered from reports coming from inside Haiti via:

    * SMS
    * Web
    * Email
    * Radio
    * Phone
    * Twitter
    * Facebook
    * Television
    * List-serves
    * Live streams
    * Situation Reports

    Volunteers at the Fletcher School’s Situation Room are mapping about 50% of the reports 24 hours a day. The other 50% of reports come from the Ushahidi team and volunteers around the world. Each report is first read at least once by Situation Room before being published on the map. This Ushahidi deployment represents a joint initiative with members of the International Network of Crisis Mappers (CM*Net).

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