Data Viz Revision: NIMSP’s Campaign Contributions Disclosure Scorecard


Earlier this year, the National Institute on Money in State Politics (NIMSP) created a brilliant campaign contributions disclosure scorecard depicting each US state’s grade.

They used Tableau to visualize the data as a geographic state choropleth and labeled each state with its scorecard grade (A through F):

Sunlight Scorecard


There are a few problems with visualizing this data in this way.  First, there’s no way to see Washington, DC on this map. Also, on this map, the grade labels are redundant because the legend already shows what color represents each grade. But the biggest problem is that using a geographic map creates scale issues: you have to scroll and/or zoom to see the small states in the Northeast (e.g., Delaware, Rhode Island), not to mention Alaska and Hawaii.

The scorecard map is showing which states got which overall grade, so it doesn’t matter how big each state is.  For the purposes of this data, the states have equal weight. To try to solve this scale issue, I decided to revise the map as an abstract state map, with every state depicted using a figure of the same size and shape (I was inspired by this post by Danny DeBelius from NPR’s Visuals Team).

I decided to make a square tile map in Excel, applying conditional formatting on the state squares to get the different colors.  I downloaded the data from NIMSP’s Tableau file, then used this awesome tutorial by Caitlyn Dempsey at GIS Lounge. Here’s what my Excel square tile map looks like:

NIMSP Excel Scorecard


I think the legend is a bit too big (It’s not that easy to make the cells smaller. You’d probably have to make all of the cells tiny, and merge them to get the bigger state squares).

Overall, the Excel tile map is fine, but I think it lacks a bit of visual pop.

Next, I decided to try make the same tile map in Tableau, only with hexagons instead of squares.   I followed Matt Chambers’ user-friendly tutorial at Sir-Viz-a-Lot and made the following map:

NIMSP Scorecard Hex Tableau.jpg

Just for kicks, I switched the tiles back to squares instead of hexagons, and got what looks like a keyboard.  With this tile configuration, I think the hexagons look much better.

NIMSP Scorecard Square Tableau.jpg

Finally, I incorporated a little from Keir Clark of Maps Mania, Andrew W Hill from the CartoDB Team, and the Danny DeBelius NPR post I mentioned earlier.  Here’s the result:

NIMSP Scorecard Hex CartoDB2.png

So, what do you think?  Which revision do you think is most effective?


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