Steph Guinan – ScribbleLive http://www.scribblelive.com ScribbleLive is the leading end-to-end platform for content marketing engagement. Thu, 11 Aug 2016 19:37:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://s3.amazonaws.com/scribblelive-com-prod/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/favicon-91x80.png Steph Guinan – ScribbleLive http://www.scribblelive.com 32 32 Asking and Answering Questions: Using Data to Tell Stories http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2013/09/16/asking-and-answering-questions-using-data-to-tell-stories/ Mon, 16 Sep 2013 19:58:22 +0000 http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2013/09/16/asking-and-answering-questions-using-data-to-tell-stories/ Sometimes, 90% of the conversation focuses on a problem that is a small part of the big picture. Data visualizations can be a useful tool in stepping back, zooming out, and establishing context in an issue. Here is a look at a few factors in telling stories with data. Data Read more...

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Sometimes, 90% of the conversation focuses on a problem that is a small part of the big picture. Data visualizations can be a useful tool in stepping back, zooming out, and establishing context in an issue. Here is a look at a few factors in telling stories with data.

Data neutrality

It’s easy to begin a project with an idea of the story that you are looking to tell, but it’s better to begin a project by being open to the story that the data tells. Neutrality is difficult. Just as a few words can change the tone and alter perceptions, so can a few graphs. The much referenced book, How to Lie with Statistics, explores how graphs can be altered to adjust perceptions. Sometimes it’s accidental, and sometimes purposeful choices are made to morph the data into telling a predetermined story. Horizontal and vertical axes can be cropped or stretched to create a visual perception. Color is also a tool that is used to provoke certain reactions. Timelines and context, an example Using consistent time periods across multiple data sets is essential to understanding how the data pieces fit together. For example, when developing my recent data visualization, Fields of Gold: Changes in the US Corn Industry, I was struck by how important consistent timelines are to telling a story. My visualization of US crop yields showed only moderate increases, but the USDA’s graph showed a steep incline. The two different timeframes tell a dramatically different story. Rather than including all of the data that was available on crop yields, I limited the timeframe to be consistent with my other datasets. The USDA cites improvements in technology and production practices as the reason for these long term gains in crop yields. However in the shorter timeframe, the data does not show increases that are parallel to implementation of genetically engineered strains.

Visual solutions to information problems

Even though you may attempt to match the timeframes on comparative data sets, the information may just not be available. Consider using visual design cues to establish a spatial understanding of how the timelines relate. The design of a piece can be more than just a way to make something look slick or trendy. The design can be a communication tool that helps readers to better understand the data.

Clear and informative communication

As data visualization gains popularity as a communication tool, some blogs have offered healthy critique of published graphs. (WTF Visualizations, Flowing Data’s mistaken data, and Junk Charts) Whether the featured visualizations are misleading or just confusing, the graphs on these sites can be a useful lesson on what not to do. Below is the full data visualization project that takes a close look at corn and its recent changes.

Fields of Gold: Changes in the US Corn Industry

Steph is a writer and data visualization designer living in Asheville, NC. She loves collaborating on projects that involve spreadsheets, graphs, and interesting data sets. Find her online at FlapjackMedia.com, or on Visual.ly at flapjackmedia.

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A Closer Look at Garbage http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2013/02/25/a-closer-look-at-garbage/ Mon, 25 Feb 2013 19:00:04 +0000 http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2013/02/25/a-closer-look-at-garbage/ Steph Guinan recently finished an infographic on garbage creation in the US. This is some of what she discovered during her research on the topic. The EPA estimates that each person in the US produces 4.43 pounds of garbage per day. With a growing population, even moderate attempts to reduce Read more...

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Steph Guinan recently finished an infographic on garbage creation in the US. This is some of what she discovered during her research on the topic. The EPA estimates that each person in the US produces 4.43 pounds of garbage per day. With a growing population, even moderate attempts to reduce the cycle of consumption and disposal have not been enough to plateau the country’s total trash production. When considering the ways in which we interact with our environment, it is critical for us to examine and understand our waste. Data visualization can aid this understanding and better equip us to adjust our consumption and disposal habits.

 

Trash is Big Business

Waste management is a $55 billion industry, according to the Waste Business Journal. Projections of growth expect the industry to reach $60 billion by 2016. The data has shown that waste management is an economic area that is nearly recession proof. Even in hard economic times, disposal of trash is a public service that still must be addressed. Although increases in total trash production may be good for the garbage business, it has a lasting environmental impact that warrants researching greener solutions.  

Slowing the Cycle of Garbage

When taking a critical look at the trash generated by our households and businesses, the first step is to closely review the materials we consume. The easiest step in reducing our waste is to make smarter purchasing choices by selecting products with less packaging and looking for alternatives to single-use products. Before making a purchase, we might also consider second-hand products or reach out to community members to share resources and tools.

Smart Disposal

Of the four methods that broadly categorize trash disposal, recycling and composting are the most environmentally friendly. Even with the resources used to recycle glass, aluminum, and plastic, there is a net positive when compared to the resources saved in production of new material and the cost of other disposal methods. Landfills and incinerators both have significant environmental impact. Incinerators are known to have a tremendous effect on air quality, and there has been increased documentation of health impacts that result from this pollution. It is also widely known that landfills are a source of pollution when protection systems break down, and they leech toxic chemicals into the ground and water. With so much pollution resulting from our garbage, it’s hard to imagine that anything good could come from these processes. However, there have been small steps to generate energy from our garbage by recapturing the byproducts of combustion and harvesting the methane released from decomposition in landfills.  

Anatomy of a Dumpster

The most significant components of US waste are food scraps and yard trimmings. Although more than half of all yard trimmings are composted, only 3% of food scraps are composted after they enter the waste cycle. Publicly available compost units have had a significant impact on preventing more trash from entering our landfills. However, this compost data does not reflect any garbage that is addressed before it enters the waste stream. Backyard composting is an alternative to waste disposal and reduces our environmental footprint. A DIY compost system is easy to start at your home, business, or school.   Steph Guinan is a freelance data visualization designer located in the mountains of North Carolina. You can keep up with her latest projects at flapjackmedia.wordpress.com.

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