So, there’s this website I noticed a few weeks ago called Information Is Beautiful. Its creator, David McCandless, is passionate about the visual nature of information and the effect that a beautiful, visual presentation of data can have on people. This is the kind of website you could get happily lost in for hours as you page through the fascinating depictions of data. Talk about a collaboration of art with math & science! Many of them are fun to look at and think about, but there’s one in particular, called “Visualizing Bloodtests”, that shows how a good visual presentation of vital information can have a much bigger impact than being shown the data in raw form, or simply being told.
It’s really no surprise, then, that when I attended a school committee meeting near the end of January and first learned a startling fact about our little town of Bristol, I wondered what the information would look like if presented visually. I was surprised to learn that Bristol holds the embarrassing distinction of being among the bottom five communities in Rhode Island when it comes to our commitment to funding education, with 34 cities and towns investing a higher percentage of their revenues (mostly from property tax dollars) into the education of their young citizens. (There’s quite a bit of information to be found on the State of Rhode Island Municipal Finance Department of Revenue website; this piece of information springs from the Municipal Budget Survey for Fiscal Year 2010.)
I wish I had the resources of Mr. McCandless, because I can imagine the striking visuals he would be able to create with this data, but for now I simply started with a horizontal bar graph:
So, what do you think? Does the information have a bigger impact when it’s presented visually?