I’ve seen a couple of excellent circular visualisations recently, like this on length of commutes from the world of print – appearing in the April 2014 edition of National Geographic (I can’t find an online equivalent). It tells a great story – the colour chunks give an idea of relative country size and the length of the bars shows us that although London is a nightmare, it’s not as bad as Brussels (or Antwerp).
What’s the advantage here of making a circle? Well really, it just seems to be that you can fit more on a page that way. Spread out in a line the data would need to be cut up, but threaded round you can see everything at a glance.
I did a little more searching and found this blog post with some exploration of how scale survey data could be dealt with in the same way. Not terribly successful in this instance, but with the right design and some thought about how best to order the data, it could potentially result in a compelling overview of findings, and is certainly something that looks really different.
Also doing the rounds online recently was this excellent circular visualisation of global trade flows between the world’s biggest exporters. Here another great reason for using a circle: it can be used to display multiple connections. Each country’s exports and imports with each other are shown to scale with the colours drawing attention to geographic regions. There’s a huge amount to learn from this: for example, I was surprised to see how little the EU trades with the USA – topical given the current development of a possible EU/US trade deal (TTIP).
This kind of visualisation could be used to show brand repertoire for example, ie responses to a question along the lines of what people buy when their normal brand is not available, to show what brands are similar to each other in the eyes of consumers.
Here’s another possible use: an interactive circular visualisation of issues affecting small fisheries management. Multiple factors are categorised, grouped and coloured around the outside, and the priorities of each stakeholder group represented by the area in the middle (colour coded) on which you can view one at a time or everything at once. I have to admit the specifics are a little lost on me, but I can imagine something like this being used to represent the results of research – including qualitative – with the different ratings of stakeholders, demographic cohorts or segments shown in this way. It’s really engaging.