My infographic about the 2013/14 Premier League season. See it bigger here: http://flipflopflyin.com/flipflopflyball/other-pl1314.html

My infographic about the 2013/14 Premier League season. See it bigger here: 

Fox Sports’ awful World Series fandom map

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Before the start of game three of the World Series, Fox Sports showed this map to their viewers. It is awful. Let me tell you why.

(A caveat: While I have ended up doing a lot of infographics, I’m an illustrator/artist, and not a data visualisation expert, so my opinions do not and should not have the weight of people like Edward Tufte.)

We live in an age where, just like love, bad infographics are all around. I have made bad infographics in my life. Plenty of them. I like to think, though, that when I look back at those bad graphics, I learn from the mistakes I made. To that end, let’s look at some mistakes in the Fox Sports map.

We can start by putting our fingers in our mouths to mime vomiting at the aesthetic of Fox’s on-screen graphics. All the shiny stuff that is way more appropriate for Robot Wars than baseball. Add in blurry bits of orange and white in the background, and lay it all over a blimp shot of St. Louis.

Maps should be easy to read, especially if they are going to be on screen for fewer than 15 seconds, as this map was. Your eyes and brain have to read and understand which categories of data are being shown and then process those categories when looking at the map. The way this map has been laid out makes that difficult.

Firstly, the colours they have chosen to represent each team. One of the teams has “red” in the name. Which colour is that team assigned on the map? Blue. With so much to take in in a short space of time, that one should have been a no-brainer, and they got it wrong. Of course, both teams have red as their main colour (and cardinal is a shade of red, I guess), which does make it more difficult, but, in my opinion, the team with the name of the colour in their name gets first dibs on that colour.

Fox is showing us four kinds of states here: heavily in favour of either team, or slightly in favour of either team. That’s fine. I’m all for less black and white and more grey in data analysis in general. But does the key to understanding this information really need to take up a third of the screen?

And that giant key is so difficult to read. For one thing, the key area is dominated by the chopped team logos on black backgrounds. (This is a bug of mine with a lot of sports broadcasts: designing their on-screen graphics with no regard to keeping the logos intact. Here, we can see the middle half of the Red Sox’s cap insignia, which at a glance looks like a badly-drawn H. Note that TV networks never do that with their own logos.) Those logos add nothing to our understanding. They are visual junk. And they also create an overpowering amount of white in the area we are supposed to be able to quickly read and understand. Squint your eyes (or just take your specs off, nerds) and you’ll see that the most noticeable part of that key is a whole load of white.

The relevant information in that third of the screen should be the colours used on the map and what they represent. But the colours that they’ve used on the map are shown on the bracket-y end bits of their Terminator-ish graphics. Those end brackets contain the most important information for understanding the map, yet they are almost invisible.

Look closely at those faux-shiny brackets: they’re not even the same shades as those used on the map. This graphic used blues and reds that are too close to each other. It’s difficult to differentiate between “leaning” and “heavily,” even if you did manage to figure out that the brackets on the partial-logo cartouches are the whole key to the map.

One last thing: The Red Sox’s home city and state and region is, as we all know, in the north east of the United States. The whole map is tilted away from us. Massachusetts and the rest of New England are already small states, in terms of land area, compared to the states in the west of the country. In fact, both of the teams’ home states are in the half of the map tilted furthest from us. If Fox Sports absolutely must tilt the map, it would’ve been preferable to flip the elements of the graphic, so the map could be titled with the east coast closest to us. This is if and only if you insist on tilting the map at all.

The failures of this map irked me so much that I spent almost ten whole minutes on remaking it. Imagine this quick Tumblr post as me showing you the plans of a house. I’ve not put the sofas, carpets and curtains in. Despite the knocked-off-in-ten-minutes-ness of this, I think it’s already a heck of a lot easier to read.

Whether you like my choices of colour, or my somewhat tedious tendency to always use Gill Sans, or the flatness that banishes all reflections and light source tomfoolery, I think it’s a lot clearer. I have made the map flat so that New England is a lot easier to see. Because we read left to right, the key is on the left so it’s the first thing we look at. There’s space at the top left where you could place the words “World Series,” “Fox Sports,” and “Facebook Fandom Map.”

Because of our familiarity with temperature gauges going from hot to cold, or map topography colours on regular maps, I’ve re-ordered the key from being most pro-Cardinals to least pro-Cardinals (that is, most pro-Red Sox), rather than Fox’s heavily-leaning-heavily-leaning ordering. Our brains are impressive things, and we pick up how to read graphics over the years. It’s only when people do things that confound our knowledge that data visualisation gets confusing. I mean, how else would we know that the Cardinals are popular in the Midwest?

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(Thanks to Pete for editing.)

I spent a solid few hours looking at images of the Cleveland Indians on Getty Images a couple of days ago, noting down which of their five main unis (and three one off unis) they wore for which games. Here’s the results of that research. 
Something to note: there is nothing on this chart that mentions how I feel about the use of Chief Wahoo. I don’t like it. But I’m also not an Indians fan or have any connection to Cleveland, Ohio. I have tried to ignore my personal feelings about Wahoo in the chart and just present the information clearly.
Full chart here: http://flipflopflyin.com/flipflopflyball/info-2013indians.html

I spent a solid few hours looking at images of the Cleveland Indians on Getty Images a couple of days ago, noting down which of their five main unis (and three one off unis) they wore for which games. Here’s the results of that research. 

Something to note: there is nothing on this chart that mentions how I feel about the use of Chief Wahoo. I don’t like it. But I’m also not an Indians fan or have any connection to Cleveland, Ohio. I have tried to ignore my personal feelings about Wahoo in the chart and just present the information clearly.

Full chart here: http://flipflopflyin.com/flipflopflyball/info-2013indians.html

Mariano Rivera. Pitcher, New York Yankees, 1995-2013.
I did a big big chart about his career for Bronx Banter.
See it here: http://www.bronxbanterblog.com/2013/09/30/the-great-mariano-by-the-numbers/

Mariano Rivera. Pitcher, New York Yankees, 1995-2013.

I did a big big chart about his career for Bronx Banter.

See it here: http://www.bronxbanterblog.com/2013/09/30/the-great-mariano-by-the-numbers/

Good morning, Pittsburgh! Here’s a big infographic about the Pirates’ recent history. Full chart here: http://flipflopflyin.com/flipflopflyball/info-pirates500.html

Good morning, Pittsburgh! Here’s a big infographic about the Pirates’ recent history. Full chart here: 

New chart looking at The Fall and all of their members over the years. http://flipflopflyin.com/thefall/index.html

New chart looking at The Fall and all of their members over the years. 

New infographic about the songs on the Pixies’ demo tape. 
See it full-size here: http://flipflopflyin.com/thepurpletape/index.html

New infographic about the songs on the Pixies’ demo tape.

See it full-size here: 

New chart looking at the Beatles’ post-Beatles careers and collaborations with other members of the band.
Full chart here: http://flipflopflyin.com/jpgr/index.html

New chart looking at the Beatles’ post-Beatles careers and collaborations with other members of the band.

Full chart here: http://flipflopflyin.com/jpgr/index.html

Another soccer chart. This time looking at where the squad members of four countries played their club football: in their own country or in another country.
See it bigger: http://flipflopflyin.com/flipflopflyball/other-squads.html 

Another soccer chart. This time looking at where the squad members of four countries played their club football: in their own country or in another country.

See it bigger: http://flipflopflyin.com/flipflopflyball/other-squads.html 

New soccer chart, looking at English football teams relegated out of the fourth tier, down to non-league football. Full chart here: http://www.flipflopflyin.com/flipflopflyball/other-relegation.html

New soccer chart, looking at English football teams relegated out of the fourth tier, down to non-league football. Full chart here: 

A new infographic-y kinda thing looking at the events following George Brett eating crab legs at Kokomo’s at the Mirage in Las Vegas, Nevada.
http://flipflopflyin.com/flipflopflyball/info-georgebrett.html

A new infographic-y kinda thing looking at the events following George Brett eating crab legs at Kokomo’s at the Mirage in Las Vegas, Nevada.

http://flipflopflyin.com/flipflopflyball/info-georgebrett.html

Here’s to you, Nick Johnson: you were a major leaguer.
http://flipflopflyin.com/flipflopflyball/info-nickjohnson.html

Here’s to you, Nick Johnson: you were a major leaguer.

http://flipflopflyin.com/flipflopflyball/info-nickjohnson.html

First, I can’t stop myself calling them The Pink Floyd. Second, I can’t stop saying “The Pink Floyd” in a bad John Peel impression. Third, I love Pink Floyd. Fourth, I like making charts. Fifth, here’s a chart looking at who did the songwriting on Pink Floyd albums. I’d always known that Roger Waters kinda dominated as the band went on, but I don’t think I’d ever really realised to what degree. Sixth, this is not about baseball. Anyway: larger version here: http://www.flipflopflyin.com/pinkfloyd/index.html

First, I can’t stop myself calling them The Pink Floyd. Second, I can’t stop saying “The Pink Floyd” in a bad John Peel impression. Third, I love Pink Floyd. Fourth, I like making charts. Fifth, here’s a chart looking at who did the songwriting on Pink Floyd albums. I’d always known that Roger Waters kinda dominated as the band went on, but I don’t think I’d ever really realised to what degree. Sixth, this is not about baseball. Anyway: larger version here: http://www.flipflopflyin.com/pinkfloyd/index.html

Happy Australia Day, Australians. Here’s a chart about baseball in your country. 
Bigger version here: http://flipflopflyin.com/flipflopflyball/info-australia.html

Happy Australia Day, Australians. Here’s a chart about baseball in your country. 

Bigger version here: http://flipflopflyin.com/flipflopflyball/info-australia.html

New infographic, charting the things that happen during an NFL game.
Full size chart here: http://flipflopflyin.com/flipflopflyball/other-130112ravensbroncos.html
This is a work-in-progress concept. It has flaws. It’s a first attempt at charting an NFL game.

Before I explain further, I should mention that my knowledge of American football is minimal at best: I enjoy watching NFL games, I know what a quarterback is, but beyond the basics, I know nothing. The idea of making a chart like this came about because I want to understand the game better. My main sporting interest is baseball, and I had a thought that, to aid my understanding, I could take the idea of the baseball box score (giving the reader a brief overview of what happened during a game) and the idea of keeping score (using graphic elements and abbreviations to tell the story of a game), and applying those ideas in a graphic way to a football game. 

It is entirely possible that something like this already exists. I’ve seen the Drive Chart on NFL.com’s GameCenter,  but they don’t really tell me, a novice football follower, much graphically. In the chart, I am trying to keep the visual language as simple as possible, but also express as much as I can without the viewer having to keep referring back to the key to see what each graphic element means.

Like I mentioned, there are flaws. There are a few inconsistencies here and there, but I plan on doing another chart of a different game, hopefully this weekend, to address those flaws, and tighten up the concept and design a bit. For one thing, I’d like the next version of this to have fewer words. To add graphic symbols for interceptions, fumbles, penalties, and timeouts.

That being said, I figured it might be worth putting this online in its flawed state for people to look at. I’m moderately happy with this first attempt. I feel like a few more games of data might be enough to tighten up the concept to a point where I could hopefully be able to do something “live,” to follow along a game and fill out a chart, like I would keeping score at a baseball game. Oh, and one thing I guess I should mention: I’ve not changed ends for the teams when they change ends in the game. This is purely to keep the chart neat and understandable: Baltimore are playing left to right, Denver right to left. If you have any thoughts or questions, feel free to contact me.

New infographic, charting the things that happen during an NFL game.

Full size chart here: http://flipflopflyin.com/flipflopflyball/other-130112ravensbroncos.html

This is a work-in-progress concept. It has flaws. It’s a first attempt at charting an NFL game.

Before I explain further, I should mention that my knowledge of American football is minimal at best: I enjoy watching NFL games, I know what a quarterback is, but beyond the basics, I know nothing. The idea of making a chart like this came about because I want to understand the game better. My main sporting interest is baseball, and I had a thought that, to aid my understanding, I could take the idea of the baseball box score (giving the reader a brief overview of what happened during a game) and the idea of keeping score (using graphic elements and abbreviations to tell the story of a game), and applying those ideas in a graphic way to a football game. 

It is entirely possible that something like this already exists. I’ve seen the Drive Chart on NFL.com’s GameCenter,  but they don’t really tell me, a novice football follower, much graphically. In the chart, I am trying to keep the visual language as simple as possible, but also express as much as I can without the viewer having to keep referring back to the key to see what each graphic element means.

Like I mentioned, there are flaws. There are a few inconsistencies here and there, but I plan on doing another chart of a different game, hopefully this weekend, to address those flaws, and tighten up the concept and design a bit. For one thing, I’d like the next version of this to have fewer words. To add graphic symbols for interceptions, fumbles, penalties, and timeouts.

That being said, I figured it might be worth putting this online in its flawed state for people to look at. I’m moderately happy with this first attempt. I feel like a few more games of data might be enough to tighten up the concept to a point where I could hopefully be able to do something “live,” to follow along a game and fill out a chart, like I would keeping score at a baseball game. Oh, and one thing I guess I should mention: I’ve not changed ends for the teams when they change ends in the game. This is purely to keep the chart neat and understandable: Baltimore are playing left to right, Denver right to left. If you have any thoughts or questions, feel free to contact me.