Great Depressions in America

Data Art, Aesthetic, Critical API, Depression, Data, Visualization

A visualization of the mentions of the word “depression” in NYTimes from 1900 to 2014. This work aims at exploring the relationship between data and aesthetics. It reveals This graphic purposefully sacrifice clarity in narrative for visual design, in order to let people focus on the great difference between the Great Depression and other years.

I built a 3D model that could allow people to explore, with drawing a diagram every year based on every month’s data, and arrange them side by side.

Static data graph for Jer Thorp’s Data Art at ITP. Created by Processing, the New York Times API, and Photoshop for layout.

Views from different angles


The idea of digging out data about “depression” comes from my experience in hospital. Last year I hurt my back so badly. But the doctor just spent several minute on my back then began to ask me whether I was in depression, as depression is a bigger problem. As the doctors in China would never do that, it made me feel that Americans really care about depression much more than Chinese.

Thus, I searched the articles about “depression” through NYTimes API. I found that America experienced 2 great depression in the last 164 years: the first one was around 1932 and the second one was around 2010, exactly the years when America experienced the Great Depression.

“Depression” 1900–2014

Then I tried to search “College Depression” and “University Depression”, it is highly related to the depression of the whole USA, also with an increase in trend recently.

“College Depression” 1900–2014
“University Depression” 1900–2014

I tried different ways to visualize it:

Then I found that it’s not enough. So I began to dig out the data of every month instead of every year. And generated the work above at the beginning of this article.

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