AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators



Susan Kistler on How to Win a Copy of Visualize This

I’m Susan Kistler, the Executive Director of the American Evaluation Association and contributor of each Saturday’s post to aea365. Back on day 2 of aea365, in January of 2010, I recommended FlowingData as part of a post about favorite resources for data visualization inspiration.

Rad Resource: This month, FlowingData’s curator, Nathan Yau, published Visualize This: The FlowingData Guide to Design, Visualization, and Statistics.  The reviews from readers on Amazon note “Nathan Yau is a rare breed that gets the balance between academia and reality,” and “The writing style is crisp and conversational and is organized around the kind of things one might want the data to communicate: time series, part-to-whole comparisons, relationships, etc. It does not require any expertise in programming or statistics to understand.”

In reading Yau’s contributions on FlowingData, I’ve found him to be articulate, his examples to be thoughtful, and his work to ensure that the story in the data comes shining through and looks good while doing it. He brings a statistics background to data visualization, attending to not sacrificing accuracy for the sake of art.

Hot Tip: My copy is on order (for me, this is the ultimate in summer beach reading), but you can win one of two copies of Visualize This, generously donated by our colleagues at John Wiley and Sons publishers. And it’s easy – how to win you ask?

  1. Go to FlowingData – or any site with data visualizations – and identify one that you find compelling
  2. Post a link to it in the comments for this post with a sentence or two noting why (or why not) you believe it tells well the story of the underlying data

We’ll all get inspired by one another’s great picks, and we’ll draw at random two names from among the comments posted on or before Friday, August 5, and send each a free copy of Visualize This. Anyone is welcome to enter, but only one entry per person please!

Hot Tip: Interested in Data Visualization? Be sure to attend the sessions at AEA’s Annual Conference this November, Evaluation 2011, sponsored by our newest Topical Interest Group on Data Visualization and Reporting. Hope to see you there!

The opinions above are my own and do not represent the official position of AEA nor an endorsement by the association. If you would like to add to or extend this discussion, please add to the comments below the post on the aea365 website.

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  • Admin comment by Susan Kistler · August 10, 2011 at 5:54 am

    And the winners, chosen at random, are!…[insert drumroll here]


    and, one of our very first entrants,

    Joanna Klak


  • Kim Fredericks · August 9, 2011 at 9:39 am
    I Really loved this look of the universe. Being an SNA person it showed a global view of how we are all connected.


  • Karen Larwin · August 5, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    I really like the one on grade inflation. I am always trying to get my doctoral students to show their data with pictures–this one I beleive will help to drive home why “visualize”-ing this data can provide such a powerful take home message! The visual image sticks with you.
    Find it here:


  • Susie @ Wise At Work · August 5, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    I found the Intuit Infographic on which sector of small businesses is having the Best 2011 nationwide. It compares the sectors’ incomes and then vaguely details the profit margins and expenses.

    I particularly enjoyed the mirrored image of positive income sectors with negative income sectors. The layout was a visual hook for me.

    Thanks for your post on data visualization — such a fun topic.

    See it here:


  • Talbot Bielefeldt · August 5, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    This had nothing to do with my program evaluation work, but I loved flying through the chart of the universe. I liked the concept of flying through to the edge of the data–a useful concept in explaining datasets–and I like the overall diagram of the data structure. Mainly, I liked it because I don’t get out into the universe much, and it had nothing to do with my program evaluation work.

    See it here:


  • David Robinson · August 5, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    Susan, thank you for calling this book to my attention. While advising the RI Health Department on presenting results of evaluation surveys, I am reminded of the many ways data can be presented to shape action.


  • Michelle Kosmicki · August 5, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    I’m constantly amazed at the explosion of creativity in visualizing data. That said, it also seems to make it easier to distort data when telling a story.

    I also have noticed that while the visualization may be spectacular, it can also be confusing to the layperson, who is so busy looking at the “pretty picture” that the data is lost. 🙁


  • JF Zimmer · August 5, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    The Geography of Hate is eye-opening – and a little scary.

    On a lighter note, I really enjoyed
    Great fun!


  • Cheryl Endres · August 5, 2011 at 11:31 am

    I am fascinated by data visualization and I really like the TED talk by David McCandless – several good examples of how to display data

    His comments regarding the need to pull context in, rather than just raw data on a single variable (such as military spending alone vs. military spending per capita) are a visual reminder of what the “I can change the numbers at will” comment that some economists make. Relativitity is critical to really understanding what you are looking at

    Especially encouraging since he talks about being self-taught in how to manage information visually


  • BriannaM · August 5, 2011 at 10:31 am

    As a qualitative researcher, I’m always both fascinated by and reluctant to create more formal, statistical data visualizations. However, after dipping a toe into the world of Photovoice, I found the artistic images of very interesting. Working with partners who are leery of formal charts and data, these types of images are often a great way for community members to contribute to a conversation. They start a discussion.


  • Jenn Prichard · August 5, 2011 at 10:28 am

    I loved the visualization of NFL data at Juice Analytics:

    For me, it was interesting to highlight a team and see where they fell on each category and then think about how that related to their standing in the league. In particular, I liked being able to see where the Superbowl and playoff teams stood on offensive vs. defensive stats. It gave insight into some of the factors that play into success.


  • Linda Wilson · August 5, 2011 at 10:00 am

    I love these maps! they are visually attractive/bizarre and the accompanyikng text gives history, perspective. Tufte uses a famous map of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia to illustrate how effective it is at portraying complex information well. Many of these do as well


  • Beverly Parsons · August 5, 2011 at 8:43 am

    I enjoyed the Flowing Data display If the World Lived in a single City.

    I’m very interested in environmental issues. This gave me a new perspective on this issue. It stimulated my thinking about the infrastructures of our societies.


  • Kelli Johnson · August 5, 2011 at 8:30 am

    I like “Twitterize Yourself” – a fun tool from that displays your Twitter personality.


  • Marc Ryan · August 5, 2011 at 8:20 am

    While I might work in market research these days, I got my start in the sciences and I’ve been an avid follower of all things science these days. Ironically, I came across this excellent visualization of the scale of everything in the universe while trying out StumbleUpon.

    Using a simple flash animation and the power of perspective, this visualization allows you to put everything into it’s own appropriate scale, whether that the size of a quark or the size of the stingray nebula.

    It’s amazing what you can find just stumbling around.


  • Monica Oliver · August 5, 2011 at 7:51 am

    This lecture on good and bad graphs is well done. It makes some great points about how a data visualization can only be as good as the data itself is good —


  • Martin von Wyss · August 5, 2011 at 7:51 am

    I vote for the Australian census Spotlight. It’s a really clever site because it quickly and smoothly gives you a personal insight into a very large database about the Australian population. It’s personal because it tailors the message to you based on just a few details you provide about yourself. So no two resultant infographics, probably, will be the same.

    Yet even though it was tailored to me based on my inputs, I didn’t a creepy feeling that they know too much about me as an individual. My heritage, profession, and so on, were sufficiently generalised and normalised to put them into perspective rather than to show how I might be identified based on my inputs.

    In addition to the really fast performance of this application, another appealing element was the integration of the audio. Although the narrator didn’t add any insights or data, the script kept the tone light and amusing. All in all, this is really good design of a specific (personal) view into a very large database.


  • Sue Cottrell · August 5, 2011 at 6:35 am

    I enjoyed the world map of useless stereotypes for a couple of reasons. The subject matter is humorous, which automatically draws a lot of people to look further. The oversize drawing in vibrant colors makes me think “fun”, and doesn’t require me to think too deeply about what I’m reading. The stereotypes have been encapsulated well and are easy to read and digest. It got lots of comments, which indicates interest from a lot of people.

    See at:


  • Norma Martinez-Rubin · August 4, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    The Australian Bureau of Statistics created Spotlight (, an interactive site that allows individuals to compare their characteristics (e.g., age, occupation, ancestry, other) to the Australian population as a whole per 2006 census data.

    The Census Infographic produced at the end of the sequence nicely and boldly displays a summary of one’s entries. It’s a fun way to see how one relates to the enormity of a population.

    Interestingly, evaluator isn’t found on the occupation pull down menu as an option. The closest I chose was management and organizational analyst. Fun fact: per the site, in Australia there are more electricians than there are management and organizational analysts!


  • Robert Lake · August 4, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    For me, dynamic data visualisations are very compelling because the story unfolds before your eyes. Great static visualisations still require the viewer to interpret, and possibly misinterpret. This video showing Hans Rosling describe nation wealth and health is a great example. Imagine an evaluation presentation like this to a client about their program!

    (If the link doesn’t work, search YouTube for ‘hans rosling bbc4’)


  • Hong Nguyen · August 4, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Why Census Matters :

    The Canadian Government just recently changed its policy on the longform Census, making it voluntary instead of required by law. Everyone who works with data or uses is worried about the quality and baseline data now. So it’s very interesting for me to see Australian census data narrated in such a fun and interesting way.


  • Karla Nievas · August 4, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    As a very visual person, I really like this image for the underlying message: space is relative.
    I read some of the comments that people made about the chart, and it would be indeed interesting to see very populated cities included (some of the suggestions were Mexico City, Tokyo, New Delhi, etc.)


  • Lori Sugiyama · August 4, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    This is a great visualization on crime in large cities. It’s amazing the amount of data in each graph and what you can glean from all of them together.


  • Kelly Hannum · August 4, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    Page 15 of the report at the link below tells an easy to understand story about boundaries visually. I like that the same icons are used across documents (which you can’t see looking at just one link) – so they make sense individually and they are easy to scan and make sense of together.


  • Jennifer Sulewski · August 4, 2011 at 11:38 am

    This one is both interesting and timely (and shows how effective it is to try to predict trends):


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