1st Edition

Data Sketches A journey of imagination, exploration, and beautiful data visualizations

By Nadieh Bremer, Shirley Wu Copyright 2021
    428 Pages 132 Color Illustrations
    by A K Peters/CRC Press

    428 Pages 132 Color Illustrations
    by A K Peters/CRC Press

    428 Pages 132 Color Illustrations
    by A K Peters/CRC Press

    In Data Sketches, Nadieh Bremer and Shirley Wu document the deeply creative process behind 24 unique data visualization projects, and they combine this with powerful technical insights which reveal the mindset behind coding creatively. Exploring 12 different themes – from the Olympics to Presidents & Royals and from Movies to Myths & Legends – each pair of visualizations explores different technologies and forms, blurring the boundary between visualization as an exploratory tool and an artform in its own right. This beautiful book provides an intimate, behind-the-scenes account of all 24 projects and shares the authors’ personal notes and drafts every step of the way.

    The book features:

    • Detailed information on data gathering, sketching, and coding data visualizations for the web, with screenshots of works-in-progress and reproductions from the authors’ notebooks
    • Never-before-published technical write-ups, with beginner-friendly explanations of core data visualization concepts
    • Practical lessons based on the data and design challenges overcome during each project
    • Full-color pages, showcasing all 24 final data visualizations

    This book is perfect for anyone interested or working in data visualization and information design, and especially those who want to take their work to the next level and are inspired by unique and compelling data-driven storytelling.

    Foreword by Alberto Cairo. About Data Sketches. 1. July: Movies 2. August: Olympics 3. September: Travel 4. October: Presidents & Royals 5. November: Books 6. December: Music 7. January: Nostalgia 8. February: Nature 9. March: Culture 10. April: Community 11. May: Myths & Legends 12. June: Fearless


    Nadieh Bremer is an astronomer turned data scientist turned freelancing data visualization designer. Shirley Wu studied business and finance, graduated as a software engineer, and is now an independent data visualization designer. Connected by a mutual love for visualizing data, they bring a unique approach to visualization and refuse to be tied down by convention and available tools. The results are beautiful, innovative, and inspiring.

    They are both award-winning and internationally recognized data visualization designers. Their past clients include Google, UNESCO, SFMOMA, and the New York Times.

    "The Data Sketches collaboration is a glorious tour de force: two people spur each other along a remarkable spiral of visualization creativity, and let the rest of us come along for the ride! Nadieh and Shirley share their sketches and code, experiments and explorations, reflections and realizations, eurekas and backtracks, and infectious enthusiasm. They each bring a unique vector, voice, and style to the 12 project topics; what unites them is deep technical chops and a superlative eye for design."

    --Tamara Munzner, Professor of Computer Science at the University of British Columbia, Former Chair of the Executive Committee of IEEE Visualization, Author of Visualization Analysis and Design

    "What a rare treat it is for Shirley and Nadieh to share their process so openly! We see not only the technical work—prototyping with real data, riffing from examples—but the circuitous emotional journey from rough concept to polished final product. Shirley and Nadieh are honest, entertaining, and insightful in their retrospectives. For anyone interested in visualization, their stories are a powerful lesson of how designs can be shaped to communicate effectively and with intent. And their openness and humility make the practice less intimidating, inviting newcomers to get started."

    --Mike Bostock, Creator of D3.js and Founder of Observable

    "The work of Nadieh Bremer & Shirley Wu is some of the most beautiful and exciting data visualization work being done today. They bring incredible aesthetics to complex data to enlighten and evoke joy in their audiences. In Data Sketches we get to see some of their best, most personal work and, more than that, we get their explanation of what inspired them and how they accomplished such amazing work. This book is a treat for both the eye and the mind."

    --Elijah Meeks, Executive Director of the Data Visualization Society and Author

    "This book brings the perfect blend of ingredients together for a nourishing recipe of inspiration and knowledge beneficial to beginners and experienced practitioners alike. Nadieh and Shirley are generational talents. Through their data visualisation work they relentlessly exhibit a wide spectrum of capabilities across the creative, editorial, analytical, and technical dimensions. Above all, they are wonderful communicators. They know how to skilfully communicate to audiences through data. And now, through this book, they share detailed stories of their process giving us the privilege of learning what, why and how they do what they do."

    --Andy Kirk, Data Visualisation Specialist, Author, and Editor of visualisingdata.com

    "Nadieh Bremer and Shirley Wu are wondrous eccentrics. Their splendid book is the product of a collaborative experimental project, Data Sketches, that might be one of the first exponents of an emerging visualization orthodoxy in which uniqueness is paramount and templates and conventions are viewed with scepticism."

    --Alberto Cairo, Knight Chair at the University of Miami and Author - from the Foreword

    "Nadieh Bremer and Shirley Wu’s Data Sketches collaboration is a great example of what you can do with data visualization beyond a standard chart. They show that visualization can be both useful and beautiful. They show the many possibilities when you put thought into the data and the visuals. The best part of Data Sketches is that Bremer and Wu documented their processes, so that you can learn the tools they used, the messiness of the data, and how they get over the bumps along the way."

    --Nathan Yau, Creator of FlowingData and Author

    "Written in an approachable, first-person angle, this book is a delightful behind-the-scenes look at the process for creating any sophisticated data visualization. It provides many personal tips for every stage of development, from data collection and analysis, to sketching and final production. The authors have done a tremendous job in demystifying a normally opaque practice. They made it seem so easy you will want to start on your own project right away."

    --Manuel Lima, Design Lead, Author, Mentor, and Lecturer. RSA Fellow. TED Speaker. Founder of VisualComplexity.com.

    "The story behind the magic is sometimes the most magical. Data Sketches is a landmark event in data visualization. Finally, Shirley Wu and Nadieh Bremer reveal how they brought it to life. Go with two of the world’s best interactive makers deep behind-the-scenes. See how it works—and all the drafts it took to get there. Learn from many comparisons: between Wu and Bremer and across the trajectory of their twenty-four stories. After immersing yourself in Data Sketches you will emerge inspired." -- RJ Andrews, Data Storyteller, Author, and Creator of Info We Trust.

    "As an educator focused on computational media, I consistently point students towards Shirley and Nadieh's work for inspiration. I am so thrilled and excited that they've synthesized years of hard work and exploration into Data Sketches, which is now my go-to resource for coders interested in creative expression and storytelling with data!"

    --Dan Shiffman, Author, Director of The Processing Foundation, Associate Arts Professor at ITP/IMA, Tisch School of the Arts, NYU

    "A visual duet to savor! This tag-team visualization bonanza is a total knockout!"

    --Jim Vallandingham, Data Visualization Designer and Data Scientist at Zymergen

    “Lay-chart readers cannot appreciate the expertise and thousands of decisions that go into a single visualization, but this wonderful behind-the-scenes peek reveals how there is never just one ‘right’ answer, but many possible answers — each of them beautiful, provocative, and shaped by the unique lens of its creator.”
    --Scott Murray, Author and Designer, O'Reilly media