Visualizing the state of housing in the United States

In 2011 organized a visualization contest where visualization designers were challenged to visualize recently published US Census data. The winner would win an all-inclusive ticket to the renowned Eyeo Festival. Ghost Counties was the winning visualization.


Every 10 years U.S. Census holds a survey to count every resident in the United States. This data is eventually published freely, and one of the first data sets that was released was on housing. organized a data visualization contest together with Eyeo Festival where visualization designers were challenged to create an interactive portrait of America by visualizing the 2010 Census data. The organization encouraged not to create map-based visualizations, unless you would utilize a creative approach to the map.

Ghost Counties was my entry, and shows empty homes for all the counties by state. Each bubble represents a county, whereas the outer bubble represents the total number of homes, and the inner bubble represents the number of empty homes. The y-axis shows the population, and the x-axis of the bubbles shows the percentage of empty homes (the more to the right, the more empty homes). Color is also used to indicate empty homes (the more red, the more empty homes). A secondary x-axis at the bottom shows the population / total homes ratio, and connects the bubbles with curved lines. Users can browse all the U.S. states by using the arrow keys, and detailed statistics are shown in the top right corner when a user hovers over one of the counties.


In order to find a visual representation of the data that is visual interesting, I have tried many different approaches. Below is a sample of some of the preliminary sketches that eventually resulted in the final visualization.