Ladies and Gentlemen…Album Covers as Data Viz

This week’s Makeover Monday was another one of those I tend to struggle with – just one measure (export value in USD for drugs and medicine) and two dimensions (country and year, with full data for only four years).

As usual I started with a quick exploration of the data, looking at total exports by year then trends by country. Yet it felt like I only had half the picture (exports but not imports). I was surprised to see Germany as the largest exporter, expecting it to be the U.S.  Perhaps U.S. production is mostly for the domestic market?

There seemed like two options: to do what Mike Cisneros describes as looking for the missing dogs (a sankey showing exports and imports?) or to embrace the limitations and think creatively…

Album Covers as Data Viz

Creative up to a point, that is. My idea was to create a homage to Neil Richards’ series of albums as Data Viz, themselves homages to iconic album designs. (You can see examples by Neil here and here, or at the twitter hashtag #AlbumsCoversAsDataViz).

Given the subject matter, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space by Spiritualized seemed like a perfect choice (as well as being one of my favourite albums). The artwork for the album was designed by Mark Farrow to resemble prescription medicine, with the CD contained in a foil blister pack and credits resembling medical information.

The circle design lent itself to showing total drugs and medicine export value by year (there is one fewer circle, but it does mean the most recent year to the right of the chart is more prominent). The chart itself is just a circle for each year with a white border and 0% opacity, sized by total export value.


I found an article online that suggested the font used was Helvetica, used HTML Color Codes to get the right shade of blue, and chose text inspired by the original artwork which related to the subject. By importing the original album as an image to use as a template, I was able to make the final design pleasingly close to the original:

The finished image is lacking in insight, of course. However the beauty of viz in tooltips is that I could add detail to the interactive Tableau public version while keeping the design as minimal and clean as the original. So ladies and gentlemen, here is the final version, complete with tooltip for each year showing the total export value and top 10 countries:

Viz in tooltip


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s