Makeover Monday: WSJ Measles Vaccination Chart

Using ggplot2 and animation packages to reproduce and animate the famous Wall Street Journal Measles Incidence Chart - this time as a cartogram!

Last week I wrote a post about recreating the WSJ measles vaccination chart as an animated cartogram - you can check out the full write-up of the development here:

It was featured on DataCamp across all their social media platforms

  • pretty neat!

A comment from one of the readers (which disqus seems to have overwritten as I was re-initializing my site) read as so:

Your measles chart is a beautiful piece of work! No question. The (vertical) sorting merely by alphabetic state listing, however, adds nothing to the information. Even better, I think, would be to place these stats on a US map. The animation would then show the geographic progress of the disease. Try first on a state basis; counties would be too confusing The ultimate presentation, however, would show the importance of high population densities (metropolitan areas). - Kenneth Holland.

That’s an interesting idea Kenneth!

I wonder whether a similar type of graphic representation was considered by the WSJ authors. Either way, this is a great excuse to jump on the Makeover Monday train.

Makeover the WSJ Measles Incidence Visualization as a Cartogram

Given that I’ve already completed the data acquisition and manipulation in my previous post, I’ll jump right into plotting the state level data. The county-level piece is an interesting idea, but I’ll leave that for someone else!

Here is the final result:

Measles Animation Cartogram

I customized the plot in a few ways - first, I chose to represent the change in time via a timeline above the cartogram. Other developers have represented change in time using years as text - such as the Financial Times’income distribution gif (their original post here)

I selected a moving dot for a few reasons:

  • given the large selection of years, a frequently changing portion of the image would be a distraction
  • the movement of the dot is an intuitive representation of change over time
  • the point could be encoded with data - the color represents the national mean incidence!

The final product is a quality alternative to the WSJ’s original visualization, though I prefer the original representation as a full grid over years - the drastic reduction in measles incidence is more impactful with 30+ years of negligible incidence stacked up next to each other.

Interested in learning more? Hire me to consult on your next project, follow me on twitter, or contact me via email. All inquiries welcome!