Precedent: A Day in the Life of Americans

What story does it tell?

A day in the life of Americans shows am average of how Americans are spending their time each day to the minute.

How does it tell it?

The visualisation uses time-based motion graphics to simulate what activities people are participating through the day. Activities are separated into categories. There are 1000 bubbles to represent the American population. Bubbles move to a category each minute to represent what percentage of people are participating in that activity at the current time.

Screen grab taken from the “A Day in The Life of Americans”

Does it allow for different levels of interrogation that can be seen or used on the part of the reader? eg can they drill down to discover more detail?

The reader has the ability to change the speed at which time progresses, with the option of slow, medium or fast. The visualisation itself does not go into much detail, however another link on the page takes you to another visualisation exploring the same data.

Screen grab taken from the “A Day in The Life of Americans”

Are you able to create multiple stories from it? If so what are they?

Yes. You are able to create multiple stories from the percentages of people participating in different activities. For example, at 4am majority of people are sleeping, but by 9am majority are working. You can guess what time of day it is purely by what activity majority of people are participating in.

Screen grab taken from the “A Day in The Life of Americans”

What can you say about the visual design- layout, colour, typography, visualisation style?

The visual design is aesthetically pleasing. It’s flat and minimalistic, which is essential when considering 3 different variables and allowing information to be easily distinguishable and read. For the most part, the layout is spaced out enough that it’s clear what bubbles are in which category, and the time and controls aren’t so far that they feel separate. The colours all work well together, and similar colours are spaced in a way that they’re easily distinguishable from each other. The typography is light and unobtrusive to the rest of the visualisation, while still being readable. The font chosen is a serif monospace typeface, which reflects old style statistics and factual information. The choice of visualisation works well to visualise people moving from place to place, and the circular format is evenly spaced.

What improvements would you suggest?

To improve the visualisation, I would suggest giving the reader more control over the time in the simulation, to be able to skip forwards or backwards in time or to pause at certain times. Also giving the reader the option to filter certain categories would also be helpful. Sometimes in the visualisation the bubbles appear to be in the wrong categories, which is unclear what it is trying to represent. This could represent multitasking, or bubbles could be getting stuck in the wrong categories, giving inaccurate representations of the percentages of people participating in certain activities. Also, when large amounts of people are doing one activity, such as sleeping, it clashes into other categories like personal care. I would suggest expanding the distance between the categories to help with this. Another improvement could be to expand the data over a week rather than one day, to give more information about time use and compare weekdays to weekends. Another idea might be to bring some of the author’s other visualisations together to be able to compare similar data sets.

Where does the data came from, and comment on it’s source.

The data used comes from the American Time Use Survey, which was conducted in 2014. It was conducted by the US Census Bureau, so the source is reliable but slightly outdated. The source also confines the data to the United States, so it would be interesting to see similar data sets for other countries.

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