Sobering news, but a great visualization

I’ve seen a lot of visualizations around COVID-19 and particularly like an approach that John Burn-Murdoch has been developing and improving over the past couple weeks for the Financial Times. Here’s an example from today:

Highlights for me are that this approach:

  • Looks at the raw time series data in a different way, creating cohorts by setting the x-axis origin as the day of the 10th death reported in each location.
  • Represents regions such as cities or states/provinces, which seem more relevant to epidemiology than larger geographies like countries.
  • Focuses on deaths reported instead of confirmed cases which can be influenced by differences in testing so seem less usable for cross-location comparisons.
  • Uses a log scale effectively, complete with effective visual indicators for orientation and a helpful explainer.
  • Is updated daily and supported by an active back-and-forth on Twitter.

The result combines a lot of data, a different perspective, and good design to give more insight into pandemic trajectories than everything else I’ve come across.

There are variants of this chart for other geographies, plus more, on the FT’s coronavirus latest page. Check it out.

2 Replies to “Sobering news, but a great visualization”

    1. Looks like the New York Times was inspired by this approach and a few days ago started a similar version broken down by each U.S. state:

      The hover effects have interesting potential, but overall the design feels less refined:

      • The log-style axis gridlines feel distracting, especially without a baseline for the x-axis (I rarely say this, but there is such a thing as too much Tufte 😉).
      • The use of a color scale to represent doubling time seems redundant.
      • The partial data points are dangerous because, without careful extrapolation to a full-day, they could easily be misinterpreted as inflection points.


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