Thematic Maps Revisited

A month ago ONS did an excellent job in hosting The Graphical Web 2014 conference in Winchester/UK under the theme “Visual Storytelling”. You should check the summary at the conference website and go from there.

It was a great event to meet people from a variety of backgrounds, e.g. academia, the media and of course NSIs (Statistics Norway, Statistics Austria to name just a few).

All presentations were taped and are currently released as they are processed. Let me take this opportunity to pitch my own presentation of the German Census Map

I guess we’ll be talking about this conference for a while and there are many presentations worth watching already posted. For example Alan Smith from the ONS shows us why learning to programm graphics is a worthwhile endeavour for statisticians who wouldn’t regard themselves as programmers.

His presentation discusses the practicalities of developing that capability in house as a key part of the corporate skills agenda. It borrows heavily from examples and lessons learned from the 7 year lifespan of the ONS Data Visualisation Centre.

LOD Cloud Growing

Linked Open Data Cloud is growing. The new diagram as of April 2014 shows this development, compared to 2011 (diagram below).

Linked Data Cloud 2014


In the government sector growth is especially visible with the geospatial reference portal provided by the Office for National Statistics ONS.

‘The ONS linked data portal is the access point for information on statistical geographies required to support the use of official statistics. It is designed to allow users to discover, view and use geospatial data.’

Other statistical data portals are now visible too. Linked data become a new standard. So by the Swiss Federal Statistical Office (BFS), IMF, FAO, Worldbank or Eurostat.




Linked Data Cloud 2011



Envy the Data Visualisation Centre? Not any more.

If you follow the ONS Data Visualisation Centre you will be amazed by the fireworks of interactive graphics that they regularly produce. At least I am. Here are just a few recent examples that caught my eye.

Image Image Image

Now who wouldn’t want to install a similar group in their organisation. Apart from the management task at hand (including fighting against or around an established CMS in most cases) people often ask where and how they can get their staff and colleagues up to speed with all the current technology, what are the tools, how do they work and what media partners could be interested in possible collaboration or syndication.

Luckily there are conferences for that and in 2014 the Office for National Statistics (ONS) will be hosting such an event in England that will answer most of those questions. It is the well known Graphical Web Conference and takes place in this top notch venue in Winchester from August 27–30th, 2014. The theme will be “visual storytelling”.


The Graphical Web focus is on open web technologies such as SVG, CSS, Canvas, WebGL and the respective JavaScript libraries that make dealing with these graphic formats a lot easier. Front and center being D3 the data driven documents library that has become a de-facto standard in the data-visualisation world.

Have a look at the conference website and follow @TheGraphicalWeb on Twitter for the latest updates.

Infographics and ISOTYPE and NSIs


Good infographics for statistical matters do not only need diagrams (like histograms or bar charts) but also lots of icons and symbols helping to illustrate the topic.

A pioneer in this field was Otto Neurath.


‘ISOTYPE – the International System Of TYpographicPicture Education – … was an early infographical form, originated in the 1930s by Austrian philosopher and curator Otto Neurath “as a symbolic way of representing quantitative information via easily interpretable icons”.’ (Information is beautiful)

Animals life

More about transforming data into visualisations also in Marie Neuraths ‘The Transformer: Principles of Making Isotype Charts’ 

2013-06-16_marieneurathtransformerToday: ONS as an example of good visualisations for statistics

Statistical Agencies use visualisations in their daily information work. During the UNECE Work Session on the Communication of Statistics in Berlin (27-29 May 2013) Alan Smith OBE, Office for National Statistics (ONS,UK) gave a short overview and insight in this topic.

Two statements from his paper ‘Data Visualisation for the Citizen User: Making Better Graphics Quicker‘:

‘Data visualisation appeals to National Statistics Institutes (NSIs) because of its ability to engage users and increase the potential outreach of official statistics. But data visualisation is a broad field, with content types ranging from simple infographics through to sophisticated tools for exploratory data analysis. ……

More broadly, data visualisation offers NSIs an opportunity to exploit their expertise in formats which boost user engagement and readership. It also carries with it the highly desirable side effects of boosting relationships with the media and reputational benefits virtually everywhere else. A final note of caution, however, is that these visualisations should be centred on the expertise of the NSI, not based on a notion of style over content – others do that better.’



Statistical Website’s Emerging Standard

ONS (Office for National Statistics, UK) launched its new website. Clean, well structured and with visual and interactive elements.

New statistical websites – like Italy’s Istat in August 2011 and now ONS’ – as well as some older ones – like Swiss Stats (Federal Statistical Office FSO) or French INSEE – follow more and more a kind of standard which is based on a navigation by themes.

But there is no common standard concerning the themes and the sub-themes.


Once a topic chosen further navigation is very similar to one another:

  • Sub-themes
  • News
  • Key figures (sometimes visualised)
  • Publications, studies and analyses
  • Datasets , detailed data  (sometimes with DB access)
  • Guidance and methodology
  • Interactive visualisations (Maps, international comparisons)