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Visual Inspirations

If you know of a great data visualization or multimedia page we've missed in this short roundup, please leave us all a comment and link, below.

Text vs. Multimedia Presentations

Don't just take our word for it -- these guys used eye-tracking software to see how people interact with multimedia. Short answer: prose facts stick better, but multimedia explains difficult concepts more clearly. A science writer probably needs both.

Information is Beautiful

Blogger David McCandless samples great info graphics from all over and does a few of his own. Best when he takes an existing graphic and makes it better.

50 Great Examples

WebDesignerDepot, a blog devoted to sharing best practices in data visualization presents its own hall of fame of 50 great ones. Almost every one of the sites this page links to is mind-blowing, so rather than reinvent the wheel, we'll just point you to 50 Great Examples.

Many Eyes

The Visual Communications Lab within IBM's Collaborative User Experience group created this public site to "enable a new social kind of data analysis." Users can post data, create graphics, mashup others' stuff and of course, discuss. It's a great source of inspiration and ideas, but work done here stays here -- you couldn't use it to make a graphic for your own use.


A somewhat less impressive experiment in Web 2.0 for data junkies, with the significant difference that all of these graphs can be embedded in outside pages. Users upload tabular data or plumb large public collections like WHO health statistics, and then do graphical mashups, post comments and embed the results in their own pages. Looks limited to pie charts, bar charts and fever charts, however.

Rosling at TED

In this video, Hans Rosling, founder of a Gapminder -- "unveiling the beauty of statistics for a fact-based world view" -- shows the TED conference how this spectacular tool works on HIV statistics. You too can graph with Gapminder, and even embed the results in your pages, but it's limited to global social comparisons.


A team at Cornell University culls 900,000 news stories and blog posts per day from a million online sources, including personal blogs, to map key phrases that people are talking about. Kinda sad to see a peak at "lipstick on a pig," but there it is.

Cell Size and Scale

You could tie yourself in knots trying to come up with math and metaphors to explain just how small a virus is. Or you could do something like this. From the University of Utah's Genetic Science Learning Center.

Places & Spaces: Mapping Science
Katy Börner at Indiana University and colleagues from around the world are using the latest visualization tools to make sense of science itself. The map of keywords from 20 years of PNAS papers is pretty cool. (Posters are available in the online store.)

Timeline of the International Space Station
Here's how good the tools have become. USA Today tells the history of the International Space Station, piece by piece, with Flash animation. Click on the buttons at right to get more information. Try doing this on the printed page!

The History Browser

The University of Virginia has built an interactive site to allow users to browse historical records. Visuals they find and create can include text, primary source documents and images, maps, digital movies and audio, animations, charts and graphs of historical data. Prepare to spend some time on this one.


An impressive use of the free Google Maps software's power to organize data geographically. Drill down to see color overlays for congressional districts and then click through to find vast collections of data on where stimulus money has been awarded for NIH research.

Journey to Cuatrocienegas

A great case example of putting affordable tools together to make multimedia journalism. Slideshows with sound make this package of stories by University of Texas science writer Lee Clippard leap off the screen.

Top Ten time-lapse videos from Wired Science

Time-lapse and stop action have always been cool, but the equipment is getting better and cheaper. Researchers are using time-lapse as a tool, but you can use it as good art too! (don't miss the links at the bottom of this Wired page to more crazy science videos.)


The Art of Science

Winners of a scientific visualization contest sponsored by Princeton University. Just a reminder that our subject matter is frequently quite beautiful in its own right.

Small World Winners

A slideshow from Scientific American of the winners of the 35th annual Nikon Small World Competition. 

Please email your suggestions and discoveries to make this site better. (karlleif_at_gmail.com)