Expert Galleries: Scott Murray

Expert Galleries: Scott Murray

Scott Murray awesomely curated a gallery of projects that use D3.js — Made with D3.js — for our Expert Galleries series. Scott is a code artist who writes software that generates images and interactive experiences. He is interested in data visualization, generative art, and designed experiences that encourage people to slow down and reflect. He is an Assistant Professor of Design at the University of San Francisco, a contributor to Processing, and the author of Interactive Data Visualization for the Web. We are excited for this first gallery centered around a tool and asked Scott for a few more thoughts on the project.

How and why did you choose the focus of the gallery?
I wanted to focus on D3 because it's an exciting tool that's taken the datavis world by storm. It's important to pay attention to who uses certain tools, and why. For example, R is very popular in the statistics community because it evolved out of and for that community. So R makes sense to statisticians, Matlab makes sense to mathematicians, Processing makes sense to artists and designers, and Excel makes sense to people in finance and the broader public. Yet D3 has quickly been adopted by so many different communities, in part because it's such a flexible tool, but also because it is designed to be used for that one outlet we all now have in common: the web.

What is your favorite piece in the gallery and why?
Overall, I have to choose Jan Willem Tulp's "Close Votes." Besides being aesthetically beautiful, the entire piece is organized around a very simple question, yet it offers many different views into the answer. It has succeeded at two difficult challenges: first, simplifying the context in which the visualization is framed, and second, enabling a wide range of independent exploration within that limited frame.

What is one insight you'd like viewers to take away from the gallery?
I hope that people will come away with a sense of how powerful D3 really is. Unlike many tools, which rely on visual "templates" for their visualizations, D3’s output is completely customizable — there are few or no visual defaults. So it really is intended for custom visualizations (though it can be used for traditional chart forms as well).

What is one insight you discovered?
I learned that Urk and Lelystad, despite being geographic neighbors, voted very differently in The Netherlands' 2012 parliamentary elections. Actually, Urk voted very differently from the entire rest of the country! Why is that? What is unique about Urk, that the people there vote differently from everyone else? Sometimes the best visualizations only raise more questions.

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