Chris Gemignani recreates a New York Times infographic in Excel

When I read this story about cancer care in the Sunday New York Times yesterday, I was struck by one particular information graphic which I thought was very nicely done:

It turns out that Chris Gemignani was impressed too, and he decided to recreate the image using Excel. Here’s what he came up with:

Going one huge step further, and in the spirit of today’s theme of narrating the work, he created a screencast in which he demonstrates the process of making that graphic. It’s a wonderful example of the dynamic I’ve been describing. One of the commenters on Chris’ blog thanks him for teaching him some helpful techniques. Another suggests a technique that Chris hadn’t used but thinks is interesting. Very cool!

With Excel, as with all software — on the desktop and on the web — there’s so much untapped potential. The obstacles are knowing what’s even possible, and then knowing how to achieve it. Screencasts like this one leap over both obstacles in a single bound.

11 Comments

  1. I’ve only just started making screencasts professionally, but this is one amazing example. Something to look up and aspire to.

  2. Interesting. I ran across this a couple of days ago:
    http://www.juiceanalytics.com/writing/2006/07/lightweight-data-exploration-in-excel/
    Check the date.

    It’s not just Excel. Seems like the Lotus Notes folks are playing fun games with graphs where graphs aren’t supposed to exist:
    http://www.alanlepofsky.net/alepofsky/alanblog.nsf/dx/gantt-charts-in-lotus-notes?opendocument&comments

    If there is any value to the web, it’s that these kinds of clever thinking are published and shared – my entire approach to development in Notes has been turned on its head in the last 6 months because of sites like Interface Matters and Escape Velocity (both referenced in the link above).

    Re your data analysis. You’re running into something pretty common when trying to use data post-hoc. If you get a big pile-o-data and don’t know everything about how the data was collected, it can be pretty close to impossible to do anything other than make very general observations. Trying to draw conclusions from data that is likely ‘dirty’ is often a fools errand. Probably the best you can do, is find interesting trends and then try and get good clean data collected – the whole scientific method thing.

    Cool stuff and very glad to see you A) getting the data from the police and B) taking the time to hack it.

  3. “It’s not just Excel. Seems like the Lotus Notes folks are playing fun games with graphs where graphs aren’t supposed to exist:”

    Nice.

    “Trying to draw conclusions from data that is likely ‘dirty’ is often a fools errand. Probably the best you can do, is find interesting trends and then try and get good clean data collected – the whole scientific method thing.”

    That’s a great point. It has to be an iterative process. You get hold of some data, you make some general observations, you discover the limitations that prevent more useful observations, and you (hopefully) create incentive to collect more/better data for another turn of the crank.

  4. I used to work on the charting portion of Lotus 1-2-3 in Japan and I always found that the best charts for tests cases were those that actually used real data. It was an educational exercise to take a Japanese newspaper and copy all of the charts in the newspaper using the charting features of 1-2-3. The charts in the Economics magazine also make good test cases. In both cases copying the chart usually initially involved turning off most of the features that are turned on by default to a make clean, simple, but striking, chart.

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