Decoding Data: 6 of the best visualizations from top stories this year

Some stories are best done through pictures

WASHINGTON, D.C. - They look so easy to create, but visualizing data – turning lots of numbers or bits and pieces of information into something that is both pleasing to the eyes and tells a true story – well, that’s hard work. But this way of decoding big thorny and confusing issues can also be incredibly useful. 

In that spirit, here’s this small collection of important, as well as entertaining, examples of great 2014 data visualizations. 

1)     Here’s an artistic graph and accompanying story by Greg Miller for the Washington Post showing the flow of 15,000 plus fighters from at least 80 nations to Syria, where they join anti-government forces like the Islamic State.

Source: The Washington Post




2)     This year’s Ebola outbreak in West Africa was first reported in March, and is the deadliest occurrence of the disease since its discovery in 1976. The most recent outbreak  killed more than all the other known Ebola epidemics combined. As of December 21, 19,497 cases and 7,588 deaths were reported worldwide. The vast majority of them were in three countries: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The data team at The Economist created a series of graphics to show the devastating toll of the crisis.  

Source: The Economist


3)    In the protests that followed the police shooting of Michael Brown, many noted that Ferguson, Missouri, looked like a war zone. Police were outfitted in military grade body armor and rolling through the streets in armored vehicles.  It turns out America has been arming police forces for battle since the early 1990s. The New York Times mapped the spread of military surplus in counties and towns across the country.

View the interactive map here.

4)    “Sunni? Shia? Hanbali? Ismali? Deobandi?”  The website created a visual guide to the “major & notable sects, schools & movements within Islam.” Among the graphics are a diagram of the world’s Muslims per region. 



5)     Since we like to have fun with politics, here’s a map showing Hilary Clinton’s speech circuit since leaving public office in 2013. No surprise here: New York, D.C. and the California coast had the most stops.  According to the Bloomberg analysis, as of July, Clinton was already earning about 30 times her annual salary as Secretary of State.

Source: Bloomberg


6)    On a less political note, how about a graphic that shows the most decade-specific words in Billboard popular song titles from 1890-2014? This comes thanks to the work of Dave Taylor and his site  Here are some of the most used words by year in the last few decades. (Looks like the 2010s were a bit depressing.)



Print this article Back to Top