High Vis for economic data

Hi vis vest

Hi Vis vestLast time, I wrote about my experience of being a guest host for WeeklyBlogClub.

At the end, I included a quick visualisation that I’d made using Mindmeister, a mind-mapping tool. I’d used Mindmeister to help identify links between posts as part of my write-up for Week 33, and I tacked it on at the end as an afterthought.

A few people commented on Twitter, saying they hadn’t seen Mindmeister before and had been impressed with it, and occurred to me that it might be worth mentioning some other tools in case they also aren’t well known.

Economic complexity

This week I thought I’d talk about another free tool which has really impressed me. It’s called the Observatory of Economic Complexity and – whilst the title is a mouthful – it’s packed with interesting data, and comes with some pretty nifty visualisations, many of which are embeddable*. According to the ‘About’ section of the site:

The Observatory of Economic Complexity is a tool that allows users to quickly compose a visual narrative about countries and the products they exchange.

I thought it could be really useful for companies on the look-out for potential markets for their products or services. Here’s an example of the sort of thing I had in mind:


First Quartz Wristwatch CEH 1967
First Quartz Wristwatch CEH 1967

Switzerland produces high quality time pieces, and it’s well known as a major exporter of watches and clocks. I was still a bit shocked to see that, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity Switzerland’s export market for watches in 2010 was worth as much as $9.4bn. 

I wondered if it imports any of the parts that make up the watches, and was surprised to see that it’s also a major importer of:

That’s $370m in watch straps, $290m in cases and parts, and $340m in other clock and watch parts. Total = $1bn. If I ran a company that specialises in fancy leather goods or metal trinkets, I’d be taking a really close look at opportunities to sell in to Switzerland**

Any more?

I don’t pretend to be any sort of expert in visualisation – as you’ll probably agree if you look at my effort with Mindmeister – but I have found a few tools I’ve really liked. If anyone reading this post thinks it’s worthwhile, I’ll blog about some of them over the next couple of weeks or so.

I mentioned previously that I’m working on a project to set-up a Local Information System, and I’m on the look out for good tools – preferably free or low cost – we might use.  If you know of any good ones, please add a comment and share links. Thanks very much.

Photo credits

Wikkipedia Commons


*Having said they’re embeddable, I couldn’t get them to display nicely in this post in the time I had available. I need to hide the sidebar for this post so the whole vis can be displayed, but to do that I need o install and set-up dynamic widgets, so links’ll have to do for now.

** I totally accept it’s not as simple as that, and there are all sorts of considerations like how competitive the market is, but I thought it worth mentioning anyway

By Mark Braggins

Walking, usually with my two ex-racing greyhounds. Interested in lots of stuff. Work: Business Development and Research at Drawnalism

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