Beautiful Visualization

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This is the (provisional) home page for developing Beautiful Visualization, a book of project anecdotes and wisdom collected from leading contributors or teams in the field of visualization.

Note: This site is not public - this wiki is only an interim space where we can develop the book. Please do not distribute or post a link to this site.



I'm very pleased to announce that Noah Iliinsky has agreed to join the project as a Contributing Editor. I will begin to cc: Noah on all communications; please keep him in the loop and feel free to ask him any questions you may have. He will provide valuable feedback and, along with the excellent ideas from all of you, will help shape this into the very exciting book it is becoming.

How to Use this Page

Please add your contributions or suggested topics here. Before you can edit the page, you will need to create an account. Once you have created an account and logged in, you will be able to click the "edit" tab on the top of this page to add a new contribution. (If you're new to using the wiki, do it now; you can read the rest of these instructions in that window.)

A new window will appear with colored icons at the upper left.

To add yourself as a contributor:

  • Place your cursor next to one of the empty lines beginning with "|", and click the "Ab" icon at the top of this page (third from the left). Type your name, replacing the words "Link title" which appear inside double brackets.
  • Add "||" and click the "Ab" icon again. Type your topic to replace the words "Link title" within the brackets.
  • Add another "||" and any other columns you may wish to fill in (if you want to skip a column, just leave a space between sets of "||").
  • To add an external link in the "Projects" column, click on the fourth icon from the left (with the globe and document). Replace the example URL with yours (don't forget to keep the "http://" and replace "link title" with the name of your project.

At the bottom of the page, click the "Save page" button. You'll be taken back to the Home Page.

To add your contributor bio: Click on the red link showing your name to be taken to a window where you can either create or cut and paste your contributor bio as you would like it to appear in the book. It's fine if this evolves over time. Remember to click the "Save page" button at the lower left after you have added your content.

To add your topic content: Click on the red link showing your topic to be taken to a window where you can either create or cut and paste your ideas on that topic. Please begin with a one-sentance summary of your chapter. Again, it's fine if this evolves over time. Remember to click the "Save page" button at the lower left after you have added your content.

To receive a contributor agreement: Please add your contact information at BVis Addresses. We cannot publish your chapter in the book without a contributor agreement.


Ch. # Name(s) Chapter Title URL Projects/ Affiliations Comments
1 Noah Iliinsky On Beauty Independent Offers an examination of what we mean by beauty in the context of visualization, why it’s a worthy goal to pursue, and how to get there.
2 Matthias Shapiro Once Upon A Stacked Time Series: The Importance of Storytelling in Information Visualization [Project] Explains the importance of storytelling to visualization and walks readers through the creation of a simple visualization project they can do on their own.
3 Jonathan Feinberg Wordle IBM Research Explains the inner workings of his popular method for visualizing a body of text, discussing both the technical and aesthetic choices he made along the way.
4 Michael E Driscoll Color: The Cinderella of Data Visualization (blog version) Dataspora LLC Shows how color can be used effectively to convey additional dimensions of data that our brains are able to recognize before we’re aware of it.
5 Eddie Jabbour Mapping Information: Redesigning the New York City Subway System KickMap KickMap Explores the humble subway map as a basic visualization tool for understanding complex systems.
6 Aaron Koblin with Valdean Klump Flight Patterns: A Deep Dive URL Project
7 Valdis Krebs What Your Choices Reveal: Visualizing Human Social Behavior orgnet Digs into behavioral data to show how the books we buy and the people we associate with reveal clues to our deeper selves.
8 Andrew Odewahn Visualizing the U.S. Senate Social Graph URL [Project] Uses quantitative evidence to evaluate a qualitative story about voting coalitions in the United States Senate.
9 Todd Holloway Big Picture: Search and Discovery AT&T Applied Research Uses a proximity graphing technique to explore the dynamics of search and discovery as they apply to and the Netflix prize.
10 Adam Perer Finding Beautiful Insights in the Chaos of Social Network Visualizations SocialAction IBM Research Haifa Empowers users to dig into chaotic social network visualizations with interactive techniques that integrate visualization and statistics.
11 Fernanda Viega and Martin Wattenberg Beautiful History: Visualizing Wikipedia URL IBM Research Takes readers through the process of exploring an unknown phenomenon through visualization, from initial sketches to published scientific papers.
12 Robert Kosara Turning a Table into a Tree: Growing Parallel Sets into a Purposeful Project eagereyes UNC Charlotte Emphasizes the relationship between the visual representation of data and the underlying data structure or database design.
13 Moritz Stefaner The Design of “X by Y”: An Information-Aesthetic Exploration of the Ars Electronica Archives X by Y Describes the process of striving to find a representation of information that is not only useable and informative but also sensual and evocative.
14 Maximilian Schich Revealing Matrices BarabásiLab Uncovers non-intuitive structure in curated databases arising from local activity by the curators, and the heterogeneity of the source data.
15 Jer Thorp This Was 1994: Data Exploration with the NYTimes Article Search API Independent Guides readers through using the NYTimes Article Search API to explore and visualize data from the New York Times archives.
16 Michael Young and Nick Bilton A Day in the Life of the New York Times URL New York Times Research Relates how the New York Times R&D group is using Python and Map/Reduce to examine web and mobile site traffic data across the country and around the world.
17 JoAnn Kuchera-Morin, et al. Immersed in Unfolding Complex Systems UCSB Describes the remarkable scientific exploration made possible by cutting-edge visualization and sonification techniques at the Allosphere.
18 Anders Persson Postmortem Visualization: the Real Gold Standard CMIV Center for Medical Image Science and Visualization Examines new imaging technologies being used to collect and analyze data on human and animal cadavers.
19 Danyel Fisher Animation for Visualization: Opportunities and Drawbacks Microsoft Research Attempts to work out a framework for designing animated visualizations.
20 Jessica Hagy Visualization. Indexed. Indexed Indexed Provides insight into various aspects of the “elephant” we call visualization such that we come away with a better idea of the big picture.


If you would like to nominate contributors for Beautiful Visualization, please send their names, email addresses, and potential topics to Julie Steele.

Nominations for charities to which the royalties will be donated are now closed. Royalties from this book will be donated to Architecture for Humanity.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some specs and FAQs regarding the book.

How big will the book be?

We expect the book to come in between 400-500 pages. Total page dimensions will be 7" x 9.1875". Maximum printed dimensions (for purposes of illustrations, etc.) will be 4.8" x 7".

How long should my chapter be?

Each chapter should be roughly 10-15 pages in length (approx. 5,000-8,000 words).

What's the deal with royalties?

All author royalties from the Beautiful books are donated to charity, since that's simpler than trying to split them among dozens of contributors. Royalties from this book will be donated to Architecture for Humanity.

What format should I submit it in?

Ideally, chapters should be submitted in Word, using the template Julie will send to you.

What if I don't like/don't want to use Word?

We would be thrilled for you to use DocBook XML and would be happy to send you a template for that. Other formats such as LaTeX, OpenOffice, or InDesign are possibilities only if absolutely necessary - please contact Julie ASAP if one of these formats is required.

What format should my figures/illustrations be in?

There are two types of illustrations: screenshots and drawn figures. Do not use the JPEG file format for saving screenshots. These are not ideal for print. Please use GIF, TIF, PNG, or BMP. Do not crop, add callouts, or modify your final files; we will do all of that for you. Just let us know if you require callouts and supply one file with callouts added and one without. (Callouts are text added to screenshots or photos that label or describe elements.)

When initially rendering drawn figures, you should use whatever method is most comfortable for you. Figures can be sketched, described in text, or generated using a computer drawing program. All illustrations will be modified to fit the style of O’Reilly books; you should not be concerned with creating a masterpiece. If you have any concerns, please contact Julie sooner rather than later.

Will the book be printed in color?

Yes. This is a book about visualization, and we know that 4-color printing is essential to helping you communicate all that you've learned and accomplished.

Can I retain the copyright on my chapter? What about reprinting it?

Yes. You retain copyright on your contributions, and grant us the right to print and reuse it. You are free to reprint the chapter under a public license (such as Creative Commons) on or after the date the book comes out, but we ask that you not publish it before that date.

I'd like to include as examples visualizations that I did not create. What's the deal with permissions?

As per our contributor agreement, each contributor warrants that they have the ability to license all submitted material to us - that means it is your responsibility to secure all necessary permissions. O'Reilly cannot provide help in doing so or say anything that may constitute legal advice. However, Julie can send you the type of form O'Reilly might use if we were to attempt to secure permissions. You can adapt it to your specific needs.

What is the overall schedule for the book?

The following are "drop-dead" dates; for those of you ahead of this schedule: fantastic! Because of the number of contributors, it takes us a while to read through everything and send emails back and forth, so working in waves is essential. These dates reflect the tail-end of each wave, but please understand that the closer to the front of the wave you can work, the more time and attention we'll be able to give your chapter.

  • December 1, 2009: All chapter first-drafts submitted
  • January 15, 2010: All chapters move to production (production = copy editing, illustration clean-up, layout, proofreading, QC, physical printing and shipping)
  • April or May 2010: Book released in stores

What do you need from me when I submit my chapter?

We're so glad you asked! Submitting the following three things will go a long way towards avoiding errors in your chapter:

  • A file containing the text of your chapter, formatted using one of our templates (Word or DocBook XML).
  • Individual figure files, named with the format "fig01.png", "fig02.png", etc.
  • A Figure List that includes the filename, figure number (yes, these should correspond to each other), caption, and type ("screenshot" or "drawing") for each figure.

Also, please make sure you have finalized your contributor bio and chapter summary on this wiki.

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