Fortune 500 Visualization

by paulshen @ 10:35 pm 26 January 2010

Most of my writeup is at

Mac OS X Executable

Presentation [pdf]


I’m rather pleased with how the visuals and interactions turned out. On the other hand, I was a little disappointed with the visualization; it wasn’t as interesting as I had hoped, but still interesting! For the interaction, there is the problem of presenting the large amount of data in a limited space. To overcome this problem, I allow the user to pan the camera, although this has its limitations as well. The number of companies and time frame one sees at any time is smaller.

Potential Features
  • The interaction makes sense but can be optimized more. Possible zoom in/out
  • One may want to do a lookup of random company name. This would probably be another feature to implement, allowing the user to look up companies by typing.
  • It may be interesting how companies enter and leave the top 100.

I feel I achieved a lot technically on this piece and learned more C++ during the process.

My main negative critique would be the arguable lack of “interestingness” and “usefulness” of the piece. Instead, I used this as an exercise on designing a way to display multi-dimensional data. During my exploration, I also tried to color in the companies according to the industry of the company (interesting to see trends of industries). However, I ended up not accomplishing this because of the difficulty of producing this data. I wrote a script to scrape the Fortune 500 site but they only categorize the companies in 2005-2009, which would leave most of the image uncategorized. I also tried scraping Wikipedia but the articles were too inconsistent.

NYC Schools and SAT Scores

Mac OS X Executable

This was just an idea directly inspired by stumbling upon the data set. The outcome, again, wasn’t as interesting as I’d hoped, but it was a fun exercise.

1 Comment

  1. Hi Paul – here are the PiratePad comments from the crit:

    Amazing diagram for the first plot — deserves a PDF diagram. The way that they redefined the rankings is itself an interesting story. 
    What if you used market capitalization as the thickness of the line? 
    How about coloring based by market sectors (even keeping some aspects of the “when they were introduced into the list” based coloring)
    The “waeving” overlapping of color stripes is problematic, or maybe just a little weird, but I guess falls out naturally from the method.
    Whoa, presentation of 2 projects… good work, but careful for time….

    What happened to the yellows after 94-95?

    You should be able to scroll by moving your mouse to the end of the screen. Also there should be a clue that this sort of interaction is possible. (maybe an arrow or something?)

    Don’t mention Apple! I totally forgot about the tablet.

    It would be cool if you could filter by industry. I bet steel companies went way down in the 80s.

    Very beautiful displayed, although I had trouble reading the data.  Some filter options might back the project more interesting.  -Amanda

    Maybe add functionality to search for a specific company, such as a search bar. -Jon

    The hovering trick is actually really clever. It might be a hack, but it’s a lot more effective than checking every curve. Props for thinking of that, I’ve had similar problems and not known a faster way to compute it than by iterating over all the objects.

    Comment by placebo — 1 February 2010 @ 4:59 am

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