For a fact-based Worldview


Hans Rosling, co-founder and promoter of the Gapminder Foundation and of fights with statistics against myths (‘Our goal is to replace devastating myths with a fact-based worldview.’) and tries to counterbalance media focussing on war, conflicts and chaos.

Here one more example (and this in a media interview…): ‘You can’t use media if you want to understand the world’ (sic!)

And this statement on; ‘Statistical facts don’t come to people naturally. Quite the opposite. Most people understand the world by generalizing personal experiences which are very biased. In the media the “news-worthy” events exaggerate the unusual and put the focus on swift changes. Slow and steady changes in major trends don’t get much attention. Unintentionally, people end-up carrying around a sack of outdated facts that you got in school (including knowledge that often was outdated when acquired in school).’



Elections, visual


On October 18, 2015 Swiss voters will elect a new Parliament for the next four years. There are some very useful and also beautiful visual tools that help voters to get informed about developments in the political landscape and about candidates.


Background: The Swiss Political System

2015-10-02_parliamentThe full picture of Switzerland’s political institutions and executive authorities can be found in a yearly updated official brochure (the page above is part of it)

2015-10-02_parliamentcoverSee also the Official Website (Federal elections of 18 October 2015) and:

The website of the Federal Statistical Office (FSO), FSO topic: elections (German and French only)




Let’s have a look at some of these visual and interactive tools.


Find Your Candidates

With interactive tools, one answers questions to define one’s position on the political spectrum and to generate suggestions for candidates to vote for.

Tools from smartvote or vimentis exist for the National Council (200 members and 3,802 candidates) and the Council of States (46 members and 161 candidates).

For smartvote about 80 to 90 percent of the candidates have filled in a questionnaire.

2015-10-02_smartvoteThis questionnaire helps defining their political profile, a smartspider.

‘The smartspider presents a political profile based on the agreement about eight topics/aims. A value of 100 represents a strong agreement, a value of 0 a strong disagreement.’

2015-10-02_candidateIn answering the same questionnaire a voter defines his one profile that is matched with the candidates’. In the end, he gets his own smartspider and suggestions for candidates in his constituency. The more questions a voter answers, the more precise his voting advice will be.


Political Shift in Communes 1981 to 2014 – year by year

Lean Swiss communes more towards the left or the right, are they more conservative or progressive?

‘Based on the result of every single popular vote since 1983. The Somoto Research Institute together with the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC,’s parent company) has used the data to find this out.’ A quite complex interactive visualisation depicts this for types of communes and every single commune.




Party Preferences in the Communes

11 elections (1971 to 2011) for the Swiss National Council show how 2345 communes changed their political preferences during these 40 years. The  SRF Data Team (@srfdata) created a visualisation out of tons of data (in German only)

2015-10-02_GEMEINDENAfter selecting a political party and a commune the map of Switzerland shows how this commune changed its attitude towards the chosen party. Hovering over the map gives the facts of all other communes for the chosen party.

2015-10-02_GEMEINDEN-POSCHIAVO timeline Great!


Interactive Political Atlas

And not to forget the very rich interactive Political Atlas presented by the Swiss Federal Statistical Office (FSO).

Elections to the National Council can be found from 1919 (!) to today. And also votations about innumerable topics are shown starting 1866 (!!). Have a look (with flash enabled).



And not enough yet

How did national counselors vote in parliament? (in German, by SRF Data)


Do you like a Quiz … and learn about Swiss political parties?

How well do you know Swiss politics? (by SRF Data)


Forgotten something? Sure! There is so much activity in the visualisation scene in Switzerland …




Data Journalism avant la lettre

From Data to Insight

Where there are data, there is insight. However, insight needs know how – know how about data sources, know how about analyzing data (with particular tools), about the context of the data and – last but not least – know how about presenting and communicating the insight.


William Playfair

These steps characterize what for some time now is called data journalism. More than 200 years ago we can find a brilliant example of ‘data journalism avant la lettre’ by the person who is thought to have invented statistical charts (or ‘lineal arithmetic’): William Playfair.

In his book ‘Lineal Arithmetic’ published in 1798 he presents several short articles about trade relations and the income produced by this trade. His aim is to describe long time developments not the actual situation in his difficult period of revolution and war. Mercantilism seems to be the context of his argumentation, but his primary interest surely is to demonstrate his innovative visual presentation.


Open Data 1798

Playfair gets his data from the House of Commons’ yearly accounts. Open Data 18th century!


Analyzing and presenting

Playfair’s data research is quite easily done. There aren’t big data to be traveled. Some time series of import and export data are the result. It’s  his presentation that marks the point!



Playfair presents his findings in a new form. The visual presentation of data is his invention, and he proudly explains this visual ‘mode of representing‘ in the introduction of his work. That’s scientific and convincing.

2015-05-17_playfair-table ,

And to make his readers familiar with charts, especially bar charts, he gives a fascinating explanation leading from real-world  money staples to abstract bars of a painted chart:

‘This method has struck several persons as being fallacious, because geometrical measurement has not any relation to money or to time; yet here it is made to represent both. The most familiar and simple answer to this objection is by giving an example. Suppose the money received by a man in trade were all in guineas, and that every evening he made a single pile of all the guineas received during the day, each pile would represent a day, and its height would be proportioned to the receipts of that day; so that by this plain operation, time, proportion, and amount, would all be physically combined.
Lineal arithmetic then, it may be averred, is nothing more than those piles of guineas represented on paper, and on a small scale, in which an inch (perhaps) represents the thickness of five millions of guineas, as in geography it does the breadth of a river, or any other extent of country.’ (p.7/8)



Charts and textual explanation go hand in hand. Playfair discusses all charts in short texts. For chart 3 (Germany)  – see above – it looks like this:



‘ … to aim at facility, in communicating information’ (p.8)

Communicating information is where Playfair excels. And he has studied how to do this and where his target groups are:

‘ …. we think it better to confine this work to mere matter of fact, as much as possible, being’ fully satisfied that in this small volume is contained what every man in this country, who aims at the reputation of a well-informed merchant, ought to be acquainted with; at the same time, that the Statesman will find in it things which he perhaps already knows, but which are here painted to the eye in a more agreeable and distinct manner than is possible to be done by writing or figures. It is on these grounds that this small, but compendious volume, claims the public attention.(p.4)


 The title has the message


A new animated population pyramid for Germany 1950–2050

Today Destatis released a new projection of Germany’s population by 2060 accompanied by an all new animated population pyramid. It is the first population pyramid that really moves upwards.


In case the above doesn’t display in your preferred language, here are the distinct links for english, french, spanish, russian, german.

The pasted screenshot is the mobile version you will automatically see on small screens. There is much more to explore on larger displays, as birthyears are labeled directly, you can lock an outline for comparison and there are four different variants to choose from, so that you can judge the outcome with different assumptions.

Apart from starting the animation with the (Play) button you can navigate through the years by mousewheel, left/right cursor keys or on touch devices directly by swiping up or down on the pyramid.

Visual first – Visual.ONS

Visual representations of statistical data are attractive – and worth to build an own website with nothing but (info)graphs and maps … and more behind it!

ONS did it:


‘The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is the UK’s largest independent producer of official statistics and is the recognised national statistical institute for the UK. Visual.ONS is a website exploring new approaches to making ONS statistics accessible and relevant to a wide public audience. The site supports the UK Statistic Authority’s publicly stated intention of “making data, statistics and analysis more accessible, engaging and easier to understand”.
The site will be a home to a variety of different content, including infographics, interactive visualisations and short analysis, exploring data from a range of ONS outputs. It is neither a replacement nor a rebuild of the current ONS website which continues to be the home of ONS’ regular outputs and statistics.’

So far the statement of ONS.


More than pictures

Behind the graphs you can find lots of interactive tools.
A calculator to find out life expectancy is one example:


Great! And the graphs and interactive tools can be embedded into other websites.

100 Years

Comparing statistical visualizations over a period of 100 years is quite rare. The newly published Atlas of the Swiss Federal Statistical Office offers just this possibility.


100 years ago Statistics Switzerland published a Graphic-Statistical Atlas. It was a wonderful visualization of dozens of topics and developments. All the diagrams and maps were hand-made and of superb quality.



In order to honor this great work, Statistics Switzerland did it again. A facsimile of the old Atlas is now accompanied by quite the same diagrams and maps but filled wth data from our century. With this technique, a visual overview of changes during the last century becomes possible and gives fascinating insights.


The Atlas is available in Geman and French at


1901-1910 original visualization


2001-2010 updated visualization



1901-1910 original visualization


2001-2010 updated visualization