The beauty of data visualization | David McCandless

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David McCandless turns complex data sets (like worldwide military spending, media buzz, Facebook status updates) into beautiful, simple diagrams that tease out unseen patterns and connections. Good design, he suggests, is the best way to navigate information glut — and it may just change the way we see the world.

TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. Featured speakers have included Al Gore on climate change, Philippe Starck on design, Jill Bolte Taylor on observing her own stroke, Nicholas Negroponte on One Laptop per Child, Jane Goodall on chimpanzees, Bill Gates on malaria and mosquitoes, Pattie Maes on the “Sixth Sense” wearable tech, and “Lost” producer JJ Abrams on the allure of mystery. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and TEDTalks cover these topics as well as science, business, development and the arts. Closed captions and translated subtitles in a variety of languages are now available on TED.com, at Watch a highlight reel of the Top 10 TEDTalks at

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37 COMMENTS

  1. 3:15 – interesting to the context of past panics in the media are much the same today as in the past 20 years – pandemics and stinging insects!

  2. It is too bad that visuals were not displayed for longer periods of time. It is like saying there is a beautiful painting in the room, but look at me talk about it. Otherwise, the topic was super interesting.

  3. I think TED is the most fun and can know very amazing interesting informations if we see and watch during left over times. This video was so inspire me by using data in many ways~!

  4. Information design my bum.. one of the first principles you learn is to avoid using reddish hues with green ones as color codes, because there are people out there who are COLOR BLIND!

  5. We are all in debt to the carbon sinks, it used to be the carbon banks. But the internet search engines don't reflect that phrase the same anymore, adapted metaphors i guesses.

  6. A very thought-provoking talk that fits nicely with my current courses on problem-solving through comm tech and philosophy of tech in education. McCandless' discussion on visualization and on 'data as the new soil' reminded me a lot of Marshall McLuhan's notions of how the literate culture (the age of writing) is dominated by the eye (also reinforced by the coloured visualization of 9:20) and of his concepts of 'rootedness' and the need to examine the soil from which we are growing as human beings (i.e., how has technology changed the soil makeup? how does that affect our senses and ways of understanding?). I agree that I, too, find myself longing for large chunks of written text to be converted (compressed) into an image/diagram and am relieved when this happens. I think this longing goes hand-in-hand with the speediness of vision.

  7. Great talk about how to turn complex data sets into beautiful, simple diagrams that tease out hidden patterns and connections and even may change the way we see the world. It also provides some interesting real world examples with some unexpected insights.

  8. This talk would have made my exclusive favorites list a number of different ways.  His closing remarks alone bring a new kind of stunning realization about global warming and (more specifically) carbon emissions…  The Iceland volcano put out less than we do every day with airline flights alone.  Shocking.

  9. Zornwil, he specifically said, "This is the landscape for violent video games". Not, "This is the landscape for media driven fear". Point? The media only discussed 1 subject, terrorism.

    Therefore, there WOULD be a gap in data representing the, "landscape for violent video games".

    My co-workers didn't understand that part either.

  10. Does anyone know what the name of the first graph he shows is? The one with the rectangles of relative size based on data values? I'm trying to find a already built mechanism for graphing my data in this way but I don't know what to search for?

  11. This presentation is more about lies, damn lies, and statistics and how to visualize things to your liking. There is NOTHING wrong with that, I just think the true message here has less to do with comprehensive visualization of complex data than dumbing down data to dismiss what you don't like. Otherwise, each example he has given actually requires MANY visualization and just isn't so simple anymore.

  12. I can visualize things quite neatly as well if I Ignore major things and create my own universe of information without a clear set of criteria other than as I like. The "fears" thing is a primary example, it's a bit of nonsense ot talk about "here's fears the media reports" and ignore 9/11 and terrorism and say "ah, that created a gap!" Even though that's not the point, it's the visualizations, problem is that how do you visualize the more complex reality he ignores?

  13. He clearly says he is left leaning in the video. Don't worry, you wouldn't be the first to avoid inconvenient facts.

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