The Heroes of Data Visualization

Turns out that Neil Freeman, the first artist to be exhibited in Next American City’s limited edition program, is one of 21 pioneers of data visualization.

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Data visualization — the term has an annoying jargon-y tinge, but is straightforward. A data visualization project simply makes graphic a set of data. (Ie. a pie chart could also be considered a data visualization.) For Next American City’s first limited edition, we chose what is essentially a data visualization project by Neil Freeman. The image contains roughly 35,000 lines connecting identically named places in the U.S. Here Freeman talks a bit more about the process of creating the image:


I began with data downloaded from the US Census website. The files contained the locations and boundaries of every place (anything from a hamlet to a major city) in the US. I first manipulated these files with specialized geographic software, then in a custom database. I then wrote a small application to parse the data and generate the basic image. I did further work on the image in a Adobe Illustrator.

Seems that Next American City isn’t the only one impressed. BusinessWeek recently published an article on 21 pioneers of data visualization and chose Freeman for the group (showing this print to boot!). Though the article seems a bit hastily written (I sympathize), the author chooses some other interesting projects. I’m partial to this map of bicycle and walking paths and this visualization of events effecting oil prices. Freeman has also lately written about his project examining building typologies in Brooklyn at Urban Omnibus.

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Diana Lind is the former executive director and editor in chief of Next City.

Tags: new york citybig databrooklynnext american city

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