Data comic 3: The colors of fall in New York City

Supplementary information

In a standard area chart, the designer would have had to color each of these rectangles in its entirety. Such colors are metonyms; they represent an entity (a row of data about a tree) with a single description (a column about its fall color). While there is nothing wrong with metonyms, it can contain less info compared to alternatives while taking up the same space. In this data comic, I could color just the treetops with their fall colors, leaving me room to potentially represent other information, like form (e.g., the ginkgo tree is very narrow).

Even the most conventional aspects of data visualization aren’t always needed. Here, names of trees are replaced by speech bubbles that identify each tree in its order of appearance. Speech bubbles can be used to great effect in data comics because comics should engage the audience by being read. And as long as these bubbles can be used alone to identify each element adequately, labels will be unnecessary.

Among tree species in New York City, the fifth most common is the Norway Maple, not shown here. We excluded it because the data source (released by NYC Parks and Recreation in 2015, and available here) did not describe the form and color of the Norway Maple.