Shapefile #IronViz Feeder

I’ve been through a slew of shapefiles over the past two weeks looking for inspiration. Now don’t get me wrong, there are lots of great shapefiles out there, but what I was missing from most of them was a story and that’s what makes an Epic Viz (#EVoH)!


While I started with the Philly building footprint I knew that with all of the brilliant data viz folks in the area I needed to go with something else.  That was certainly a good idea because a few days after I started I was on a plane with Zen Master Pooja Gandhi who was killing it with amazing Philly data.  Check it out HERE.

My first idea was to map a theme park like Disney World, but I just couldn’t find any shapefiles that had anything close to what I was looking for.  Then another colleague, Shawn Levin, told me that he was making his own shapefiles of the Magic Kingdom… brilliant!  So I moved on, but be sure to check out his entry HERE.

After my trip to Denver with Pooja (where she just about finished in the first few days) I was feeling terribly unsatisfied with what I had with the WWF eco-regions of the world. That viz looked like this, only with some creative commons images turned into custom buttons.  What was it lacking?  Well, clearly there was no compelling story!


Over the next few days I scrambled wildly trying to find ideas. I went the endangered animal route, but struggled with a few half-hearted efforts on Sloths and then Aye-Ayes.  (In fact finding crazy animals that Jonni Walker hasn’t covered feels like a fun challenge when there is less of a time crunch.)

So when I went back to one of my many datasets (Boston) I decided that I just needed to stick with the idea and bring it to completion.  When searching for some city information I found the concept of the Northeast Megalopolis and thought, “I have all of those building shapefiles!!”

From there I mucked around with design ideas and thought about including a banner style header since it is a common infographic element that I haven’t included in any recent work. The colors were inspired by some random marketing material that I had come across and it all started coming together.

At first I had a lot of errors because apparently my extracts were too large, so I went through and hid all unused fields and finally got it to work on Public.  It is slow, without a doubt, but I have every building from 5 major Northeast Cities!  Because of the speed, I targeted this to be more of a static image.  I was able to use a cross-database highlighter to light up each city when you select items on the charts, and some custom tooltips rounded out my interactivity in case you stick around long enough for it to load.

Check out the final viz here!