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The best data visualization in 2018, according to data visualization experts

Northeastern University/Pedro Cruz, John Wihbey, Avni Ghael, and Felipe Shibuya
This US immigration chart was nominated as one of the best of the year.
  • Dan Kopf
By Dan Kopf

Data editor

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

At the end of every year, culture critics get to compile best of the year lists of films, music and books. At Quartz, we think data visualization deserves similar reflection. An increasingly important part of understanding complex information, the number of innovative and beautiful data visualizations produced publicly seems to rise every year.

To identify the notable data visualization of 2018, Quartz enlisted solicited nominations from our favorite minds in the field today. We asked them give us their favorite data visualization project of 2018. The projects include both visual abstractions of information as well as tools for making them.

Here are their picks: (in alphabetical order of the nominator)

Nike Says Its $250 Running Shoes Will Make You Run Much Faster. What if That’s Actually True? by Kevin Quealy and Josh Katz

Where it was published: The New York Times
What it is about: An analysis of whether Nike’s Vaporfly running shoe is actually as fast as the company claims.
Nominated by: Matt Daniels, CEO of The Pudding
Why? “The article about Nike’s Vaporfly is so good and has everything I’m looking for in a story idea: 1) something anecdotally known, but never quantified, 2) public data that denotes behavior, and 3) gorgeous visualizations that of data that might bore the reader. This article was exactly why I’m energized by data journalism and keeps me motivated to hone the craft.”

The World as 100 People Over the Last Two Centuries by Max Roser

Where it was published: Our World in Data
What it is about: The state of human progress since 1820
Nominated by: Dina Pomeranz, economist at the University of Zurich and chart evangelist
Why? “Remembering the long-term trends often helps me to keep things in perspective.The website does a fantastic job at showing us such developments on many different topics. What many people don’t know: over recent decades, the world has seen tremendous progress in the reduction of extreme poverty, access to education and vaccines, declining child mortality and prevalence of democracy.”

The Follower Factory by Nicholas Confessore, Gabriel J.X. Dance, Richard Harris and Mark Hansen

Where it was published: The New York Times
What it is about: The market for fake social media followers
Nominated by: Nathan Yau, creator of the website Flowing Data
Why? “Users of Twitter knew there were issues with bots and such, but The New York Times made the issues visually concrete with their look into fake followers. It forced Twitter (and related social media services) to address the issues, because through the data, everyone could see how bad things were.”

Simulated Dendrochronology of US Immigration by Pedro Cruz, John Wihbey, Avni Ghael, and Felipe Shibuya

Where it was published: IEEE VIS Arts Program
What it is about: Representing US immigration patterns
Nominated by: Lisa Charlotte Rost, data visualizer for Datawrapper
Why? “This is a great data visualization, a beautiful image and a powerful metaphor at the same time. Like any good visualization, it makes a clear statement—the U.S. grew through diverse immigration—but also invites you to explore specific highs and lows of immigration from different parts of the world over the past two centuries. And the dots representing immigrants give me an idea of the sheer amount of people that made their way to the U.S.—and remind me that all of them have a story to tell.”

Rayshader by Tyler Morgan-Wall

Where it was published: GitHub
What it is about: A tool for the programming language R to make elevation maps with shade.
Nominated by: Hadley Wickham, creator of the visualization tool ggplot2
Why? “I think rayshader is really cool. It makes it easy to generate beautiful 3d landscapes and even turn them into physical models.”

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