An introduction to Google’s new data visualization guidelines

In August 2017, a group of passionate designers, researchers, and engineers at Google came together to create a comprehensive set of data visualization guidelines — covering everything from color, shape, typography, iconography, interaction, and motion. The success of this collaboration sparked the formation of Google’s first fully dedicated Data Visualization team, which kicked off in May 2018.

Over the last year, we’ve continued to work on understanding the needs, requirements, and desires shaping how people visualize and interact with information. Now, we want to share our insights with creators everywhere. We’ve launched detailed public guidelines for creating your own data…


An historical and evolutionary perspective

Westerner and Arab Practicing Geometry (ca. 15th Century)

Ever since Scottish engineer William Playfair devised the pie chart in his Statistical Breviary (1801) this popular statistical graphic has been praised for its intuitive readability (think of slicing up a cake in ratios), and vehemently criticized for its lack of accuracy. Leland Wilkinson said it best in regards to this dichotomy when he wrote that pie charts “have been reviled by statisticians (unjustifiably) and adored by managers (unjustifiably)”. [1]


A sample of the 300+ images featured in The Book of Circles: Visualizing Spheres of Knowledge

Visualizing Spheres of Knowledge

After 4 long years of research, roughly 2,000 exchanged emails, 50,000+ written words, plenty of sketches and notes, The Book of Circles: Visualizing Spheres of Knowledge is finally available for pre-order on Amazon (officially out on May 2). You can follow updates on Twitter and Instagram.


Visual Complexity’s mosaic of thumbnails

10 Years / 1,000 Projects

Ten years ago, precisely on October 9th, 2005, VisualComplexity.com (VC) was born. The website’s launch was announced in the very last entry of my MFA Thesis Diary blog (a collection of research bits pertaining to my graduate thesis project Blogviz), where I stated the following:

Finally I has able to build the project that has been in my mind for quite a while. This is probably my last entry in this blog, since VisualComplexity.com is going to incorporate most of the research and projects previously shown here, and with time, much much more…

“With time much much more…”, undoubtedly an…


How we built two brands in two weeks

Codecademy makes it easy for anyone, anywhere to learn how to code. Our online platform is used by millions around the world, who are interested in building programming skills and ultimately getting a tech job. During the past two years, many institutions have joined this movement offering a variety of courses and methodologies. Yet, this important shift is still far from bridging the gap between technical education and employment.

So in October 2014, we decided to set in motion a nation-wide workforce initiative, comprised of many of our partners, such as Flatiron School, DevBootcamp, Sabio.la, Grand Circus, Wyncode, and Thinkful…


The Great Wave off Kanagawa (1830–33)

A metaphor on the diversity of visualization

The Great Wave off Kanagawa (神奈川沖浪裏) is one of the most well-known Japanese prints of all time. It’s also a great metaphor for better understanding the diverse nature of data visualization.

Created around 1830 by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849), The Great Wave is a remarkable example of the ukiyo-e style, an expressive genre of woodblock printing that flourished in 17th-century Japan. Due to its widespread popularity, there’s hardly anyone who cannot immediately recognize the painting, but when it comes to its portrayed subject, the understanding is often not as clear. Due to Japan’s historical vulnerability to tsunamis — a…


Inspired by Gene Davis’s style and using World Bank data from 2010, this piece portrays the urban population and annual growth for 36 countries (vertical bands) with populations of 20 million or more. Cell width indicate urban population count. In pink is Ukraine, the only country with negative urban population growth. Other countries are colored in a black to blue scale, where black represents zero urban population growth and blue represents the highest among these countries (6.25%).

The first time I saw Ben Shneiderman’s Treemap Art Project pieces, which he has been producing over the years, was during a visit to the University of Maryland in April 2014, when I gave a lecture on Visualization Metaphors. As Ben walked me through many of the pieces in person, it was clear how spirited he became when explaining every seemingly subtle choice, from the most suiting layout orientation, to the most evocative color scheme.

Even though this expressive venture might seem odd for a renowned computer science scholar, considered the father of the modern, computer-generated treemap, Ben Shneiderman has…


and the battle for white space

After the launch of Codecademy’s redesign on April 23rd, some people reached out to us wondering how we were able to embrace such a clean, minimal interface. Designers are of course renowned for their lust for white space and unconfined content, yet for us, this was not just a preference or arbitrary choice, but a very intentional pursuit.

An example of an in-progress module in a user’s dashboard, which embraces white space and typography, while focusing on a single CTA.

Some of you might have heard of horror vacui, a latin expression originally applied to visual arts, which expresses a “fear of the empty”. It simply entails a very common human desire to fill empty spaces with objects or information. …


Our 10 Design Principles

We have recently launched a considerable redesign of Codecademy.com, which you can read about in detail in our blog. Now, we would like to take this opportunity to expand on the main design principles that helped us guide through this 3-month undertaking.

Our UI toolkit covering every element, such as header, footer, form fields, button styles, sign up modules, grid, padding, typography, colors, and interactions.

Our 10 Design Principles

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Manuel Lima

Designer, author, and lecturer based in NYC. RSA Fellow. TED Speaker. Founder of http://VisualComplexity.com. Design Lead @Google. New book: @bookofcircles

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