County Vote Spinogram (Dem 2PV), 2008 by David B. Sparks.

Election Infographics: The top 1% of visualizations (and the bottom 47%)

We could compare the simple, interactive graphics by the New York Times and others to a set of data visualizations by David B. Sparks, a political scientist and visualization hobbyist. While the NYT graphics are clearly geared towards a lay audience (and as such emphasize legibility and simplicity), Sparks dives deep into the data to create visualizations that explore more complex topics such as the evolution of the two-party system in the senate (click image to link to higher-resolution images).

The Modern Two-Party System in the United States Senate

Or these Marimekko plots (named after the brightly colored prints of the Finnish fashion house):

This type of plot is called, variously, a spinogram, a mosaic plot, or a marimekko — and is not dissimilar from a treemap with a different organizational structure (other examples). The utility of this plot type is that it can spatially convey four numeric variables (x position, y position, height, width), and color can be added to incorporate up to three additional variables (R, G, B). Further, there is a straightforward geometric interpretation of each cell: the areas of each (in this case, width/state turnout ×height/county proportion of state turnout) are directly comparable.

Unlike a stacked bar plot, the width of each column conveys information, permitting height to convey proportion rather than count. Further, columns and cells within columns can be sorted to express the ordering of variables of interest. In some ways, these can be seen as extreme reinterpretations of (Dorling) cartograms, in which not only the size and shape of political boundaries, but also their position, are distorted by other variables.

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