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More countries are urbanizing as we progress through the 21st century. Since 1950, urbanization has increased globally. Certain countries now, like Saudia Arabia, have become exclusively urban when they were once largely rural countries. Researchers and data journalists at KILN, a London-based data visualization organization, have created an interactive presentation on urbanization. They found that average income, fertility rates, childhood malnutrition, and illiteracy affect a country’s rate of urbanized growth. They have also found that most countries around the world have turned to urbanization and to this day, are still migrating towards the urban life.

KILN’s interactive presentation succeeds in presenting a large amount of information through simple and visuals mediums. The amount of reporting behind the project is evident, and facts are stated in a chronological manner. Readers will clearly see that most countries have increased in urbanization from 1950 to 2015 through color-coded line graphs.

The presentation’s narration also aids the progression of the information, allowing readers to sit back and view the presentation before setting out to explore the project themselves.

Organization is a problem that I found with the project. Navigating through the graphs is slightly confusing because readers have the option to view countries by average income, continent, country, and change since 1950. Graphs will sort themselves according to which buttons are pressed, but the color-coded distinction between countries becomes overwhelming when the graphs are stacked on top of each other. All countries in Africa, for example, are colored blue. Once these graphs are combined, the user has no way of deciphering which country is which if they don’t hover their mouse above each individual line that reveals the country’s name.

Not all countries are shown in each section and it’s not explained why certain countries were included while others were not. There are no source citations throughout the presentation. Rural areas seem to have the higher fertility rates in all countries. The dates of the data sets for the fertility rates vary from 1998 to 2012. This is not updated information.

The presentation succeeds in capturing visual attention, but the speediness in which the project is presented restricts viewers from properly understanding the information and the accompanying narration. KILN seems to be an innovative organization unlike any other, but the flaws for this particular presentation are evident.


By Mack Burke & Andrea González-Ramírez

New York City is known for its diversity of people and cuisines. Since 2010, the city has inspected restaurants to ensure they comply with the health and sanitation requirements. Currently almost 158,000 restaurants around the city have an “A” health inspection grade. This is our idea: based on data published by NYC Open Data, we want to make ideally a map of the restaurants in the different boroughs and cluster them by type of cuisine and their health grade. The ideas we want to explore are some of the following: Where are the biggest concentrations of restaurants with the “best” and “worst” grades? Why could this be? Do people actually care about the Health & Sanitation grade?

Additional to this data, will also complement the story with two charts: one showcasing the percentages of A, B and C-rated restaurants per borough and a chart showing which are the most recurring health violations according to the inspections’ results.

Data’s description and link:

The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene conducts unannounced inspections of restaurants around the city at least once a year. Designed inspectors check for compliance in food handling, food temperature, personal hygiene and vermin control during each inspection. Each violation of a regulation gets a certain number of points. At the end of the inspection, the inspector totals the points, and this number is the restaurant’s inspection score—the lower the score, the better the Grade. NYC Open Data just made it available to the public.


These are the kind of sources that we interviewed or are going to interview for our story.

  • Restaurant owners: What does the grading system means for their restaurants? Have they ever encountered a “bad” grade? What did that mean for their business?
  • NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: How is the inspection process done? Why is it so important? What about the cultural differences that sometimes affect the way meals are made and it doesn’t conform to the regulations? Contact: NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, (212) 442-9666
  • New York State Restaurant Association (NYSRA): Back when the grading system 1was established, the New York State Restaurant Association was opposed to it. How do they feel about it right now? What benefits do they think the system has for business owners now? Contact: Ashley Rodriguez, Administrative Assistant Greater NYC Chapter, NYSRA, (212) 398-9160

Damian Geminder and Alison Kanski

The second year of Obamacare registration ended on February 15. With the kinks from the first-year learning curve mostly worked out, the process was smoother than last year and reached more people. Between January 2014 and January 2015, the enrollment in state or federal healthcare rose by more than one million people in New York, according to the New York State Department of Health. With enrollment rising it’s expected that uninsured rates would fall and in 2014 the uninsured rate in New York had dropped to about 10 percent, according to a Gallup poll. That leaves nearly two million people still uninsured as of 2014. We want to answer the question, why is 10 percent of the population still uninsured?

Monthly Medicaid enrollment reports, NYS Dept of Health
Rate of uninsured by state, Gallup poll
Projected 2014 population, Census Bureau

Sana Hashmi, Director of Health Care Reform, EmblemHealth, 646-447-5270 (spoken to already)
Jonathan Engel, Baruch Professor health care/health policy, 646-660-6829,
Juliana Perez, Community Outreach Educator, Community Healthcare Network, 646-942-2997
Karl Kronebusch, Baruch Professor health care/health policy, 646-660-6809,

By Marguerite Ward & Ken Aragaki

As the United States grapples with what steps to take to fight the so-called Islamic State in Syria, many people still struggle to understand the war that’s going on there. Our data story will break down the war Syria so far in 2015 in one comprehensive interactive map. We will visualize details about U.S. coalition-led airstrikes and their impact (number of ISIS leaders killed, etc), civilian deaths from rebel fighting and torture. Our data sources will be from humanitarian-led organizations as well as the U.S. Central Command’s office and will answer the question – what’s the latest information available on ISIS activity and what are the details surrounding the continuous number of civilian casualties.

Data Sources

Violations Documentation Center in Syria: 716 civilian deaths between Jan. 1 and Feb. 25, 2015

U.S. Central Command

*We will collect the number and locations of US-led airstrikes in Syria from the Central Command’s blog post/press releases:



Bassam Al-Ahmad, spokesperson,

U.S. Central Command

7115 South Boundary Blvd., MacDill AFB, FL 33621-5101

Central Command Communications Integration Public Affairs (CCCI PA)

Media Section

(813) 529-0220; (813) 529-0213

Human Rights Watch

Nadim Houry, Deputy Director, Middle East and North Africa Division


Syrian Observatory for Human Rights

Rami Abdurrahman, Founder & Director

+447722221287; +447971807965; +447937662469; +201066454801;;

Natasha Madov and Michaela Ross

Brazil’s presidential elections captured global attention in late 2014. Events such as the sudden death of front running candidate in an airplane crash to a “second round” of elections when the first round wasn’t won by a sufficient margin created international speculation about the next leader for the world’s eighth largest economy. But another drama was playing out behind the scenes: an unexplained spike in voter turnout of over six million people.

Voting is mandatory in Brazil, beginning at age 18. But a mysterious swelling in voters from the 2010 elections to 2014 cannot be explained by immigration or aging population. Brazilian officials and political scientists cannot explain a spike in voter turnout of over six million people, primarily in the 25-69 age bracket.



Already contacted:

Eduardo Leoni


IBGE (Brazilian Instituto of Geography and Statistics, which is responsible for the Brazilian Census)


Cesar Zucco

Assistant Professor of Political Science at Fundação Getúlio Vargas in Rio de Janeiro


Others to Contact:

David J. Samuels

Professor of Political Science, University of Minnesota

Author of several books in Brazilian and Latin American politcs



Frances Hagopian

Professor of Brazilian Studies and Government, Harvard University

Author of book on regime changes and politics in Brazil



Matthew Taylor

Professor of Political Science at American University


Media Inquiries: 202-885-5950


Brodwyn Fischer

Professor of Latin American History, University of Chicago




For 2010 voters numbers and election results:

For 2014 voters’ numbers and election results:

Cole Rosengren & Jack D’Isidoro

An upcoming case before the New York State Court of Appeals, involving NYU’s expansion plans in Greenwich Village, could set a precedent that would allow private development of public parks because of a city technicality. NYU and City Hall say that three parks in question are fair game because they’re on land owned by the Department of Transportation. Community advocates say that razing these parks would violate the Public Trust Doctrine and open the door to similar development conflicts at other sites around the city.

We will show a map of parks in New York City which are owned by the DOT, but operated by the Parks Department. If applicable, we’ll also look at other sites where parks are located on non-Parks Department land.

Data Sources:


William Castro

Borough commissioner, Manhattan, NYC Parks


Steve Romalewski

Director of CUNY Mapping Service


Mark Crispin Miller

President of NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan


Desiree Mathurin & Mia Garchitorena

We are interested in looking at the progress of the idNYC initiative. Who has it basically?

There isn’t much data available. However, we’ve been in contact with Ilana  Ozernoy, who works at the Mayor’s Immigration Affairs office. I’ve sent her a list of data points I was interested in and she said she would get back to me.

Headline: Most Missing Children are Runaways

Byline: Lena Masri and Ashley Lewis

News hook: Missing people are always a relevant issue in New York because people see missing ads all the time.
Nut graf: New York is filled with missing children ads in the subways, on telephone poles and restaurants. Most people assume these kids have been kidnapped, when in reality they have left by choice. Why do kids run away from home? Many experts say it’s because they come from abusive households.
Ninety-five percent of missing children cases reported are runaways according to the New York State Missing Persons Clearinghouse Annual Report of 2013. (Pages 29-30)
We have been in contact with Walter McClure, Deputy Director of Public Information for the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services ( can give us more data if we need it. We have emailed the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to see if they can give us more insight as to why these children runaway from home. We also plan to contact David Finkelhor, Director of the Crimes against Children Research Center, who has written about missing children and abused children.


The default settings in Excel spit out pretty terrible looking charts. But it’s not too difficult to turn something like this:

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 4.07.54 PM

Into something more like this:

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 4.08.03 PM

Note the specific steps for the transformation:

  • The move from a legend to direct labeling
  • The reduction of excessive axes lines and tick mark labels to reduce visual clutter
  • Highlighting the data of interest and de-emphasizing the others
  • Adding the headline, text, and source

Follow this tutorial from Storytelling with Data to see the step-by-step guide that took the default graph style to its more refined, and ultimately more effective, finished state.

Finally: an animated GIF of the process of stripping away unnecessary graphics to focus on the data and the message:



Bitmap formats (JPEG, PNG, BMP, GIF) are images that are displayed with pixels, or tiny colored dots. Vector graphics, on the other hand, are rendered by the computer based on mathematical formulas and code. For example, a circle would be defined by a radius of a certain size, the color of the outline, the color of the filled inside, its location, and so on. Because vector graphics are defined mathematically, they don’t have a fixed resolution. You can zoom in or out of a vector image, and the display remains sharp. If you zoom into a bitmap file, you’ll see the pixels that make up the image.

An example of charts rendered as vector graphics, from the Guardian.

An example of charts rendered as bitmap images, from NPR Planet Money.


Microsoft Excel can output charts as JPEG, GIF, BMP, or PNG (bitmap formats), or as PDF (vector). You can convert the PDF file into an SVG (Scaleable Vector Graphics), which is a common format for displaying vector graphics in a browser. Your images will be sharper and easier to edit in a vector graphics editing program like Adobe Illustrator.


  1. In Microsoft Excel, size your chart (width and height) in the FORMAT tab.
    Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 10.21.59 AM
  2. Select the text in the horizontal and vertical axes, and choose Format Selection to change the Font to Arial. The default Excel font is a bit unusual and sometimes throws off the conversion of text in later steps.
    Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 10.23.27 AM
  3. Right-click (Ctrl-click) on the chart frame and choose Save As Picture.
    Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 10.22.30 AM
  4. Save your chart picture as a PDF.
    Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 10.22.41 AM
  5. Open the PDF in Adobe Illustrator. If you’re comfortable with Illustrator, you can edit your chart.
    Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 10.46.38 AM
  6. Choose File > Save As, and save as a SVG (compressed optional).
  7. If you don’t have access to Illustrator, you can use the free online tool CloudConvert (, which can convert your PDF to SVG. The only downside is that you can’t edit your graphics. 
  8. The resulting SVG file is simply an HTML text file that describes the shapes for your chart. You can open it up in a browser, or copy and paste it into another HTML document to display your chart.
    Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 10.52.10 AM

Unfortunately, you can’t just paste the SVG code directly into a WordPress post, as WP (out of the box) doesn’t support SVG formats. There are plug-ins that allow SVG uploads and other hacks, but a simple solution is to upload your SVG to DigitalStorage and iframe it into your WP post, like this: