NYT charts the Facebook IPO with R

May 23, 2012

(This article was first published on Revolutions, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

In conjunction with Facebook's record-setting IPO last Thursday, the New York Times created an infographic to put the size of the offer in context with other recent IPOs. A detail of the graphic as it appeared in the print edition appears below:


ChartsNThings gives a fascinating peek into the weeklong process that went into creating this chart, where about a dozen "sketches" of charts were tried and considered until the final chart was selected when Thursday's deadline arrived. It's a great look at the developmental process that goes into creating the quality infographics that are the hallmark of the NYT team led by graphics editor Amanda Cox. It's also a testament to the value of working in the R language (used to create all of the prototype charts), which is expressly designed to encourage experimentation and creativity in data analysis and visualization. Plus, the highly expressive nature of the language allows such prototypes to be created quickly, allowing the NYT team to iterate through many alternatives as the deadline loomed.

The post also highlights an interesting angle related to the differing requirements of the web version and print version of NYT infographics: 

If you’ve seen the web version, though, you know it doesn’t look like this. [Amanda thinks print graphics can be smarter than web graphics.] For one, the browser window doesn’t give us this kind of space. But the medium itself plays a part too. Online, if you’re not engaged in 10 seconds, you’re not going to stay on the page, so they needed to keep it fun.

The prototype below was considered for the print version, but was instead ultimately adapted for the web:


The fun aspect here is that as you switch between the different view on the web, it's not just a slideshow; each IPO "bubble" moves into it's new position as the view changes. Like a motion chart, it's a great way to track comparisons of individual data points between data views. (Try it out here.)

There are lots more details about the process of creating these charts at the post linked below; the whole thing is a great read.

ChartsNThings: Amanda Cox and countrymen chart the Facebook I.P.O.

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