The Stars and Stripes

Week 18 Viz

Posted by David Velleca on July 5, 2018

Data Storytelling and Dataviz Approach

I really enjoyed creating this viz. Seeing all of the different variations of the American Flag brought me back to my childhood, and fond memories of a book that was featured on "Reading Rainbow" - The Star Spangled Banner illustrated by Peter Spier. In the back of that book, there are drawings of the different iterations of the flag over time, as well as other flags of importance to the United States.

While the images I used aren't near as nice as Mr. Spier's artwork, this is my take on an interactive version of those pages. In addition to showing the progression of the flag's design over time, this viz employs a lollipop chart. I modified the shapes to place the left side of the flag in the center of the shape, while also making sure to keep each shape the same size to show the difference in dimensions of the flags. The grey "flagpole" is a bar chart based on the number of days that the flag was in service. To make the visual work, I used a logarithmic axis. This makes the difference in length of service less pronounced, but it fit the visual very nicely.

I created custom [Row] and [Column] calculated fields based off of [ID]. The row calculation uses a pretty straightforward IF statement to assign the rows based on the [ID]. The column calc is a bit more interesting, using the modulus function in Tableau to assign the columns 0 - 6 with the formula [ID] % 7. I employed several date and text calculations to calculate the length of service in years, months and days to add to the tooltip on this viz as the finishing touch.

This length of service calculation was also useful in the interactive portion of the viz. I wanted to include some interactivity, so I added two (actually four) small vizzes at the bottom. The first is a Shape viz that provides a closer look at the flag that the user clicks on, as well as some facts about the chosen flag. The other one (three) is a map, that uses a supplemental datasource to identify the states that were added to the flag as a star, states that were already on the flag and those that were not yet in the Union. To delineate between these three statuses, I used the hex approximations of the official red and blue, as well as the background color I chose. I created a custom map on Mapbox to fit my theme. Additionally, I created two copies of my map, so that I could place Alaska and Hawaii in a place that better fit the space with the Continental U.S.

While working on the viz, and doing some additional research, I found out a lot of interesting things about the changes to the flag over time. From the fact that there was no "official" pattern for the stars until 1912 to the fact that the states that succeeded from the Union during the Civil War remained on the flag as the ultimate sign of hope. Abraham Lincoln felt so strongly about the United States as a whole that he said:

"I would rather be assassinated than see a single star removed from the American flag."

Quite the statement from our 16th President. We hope that you learned something from this dataset, and that you had a great Fourth of July. If you'd like to get patriotic with your own viz, download the dataset and publish your work to Tableau Public, and Twitter with the hashtag #ThrowbackThursday, tagging @TThrowbackThurs. We'd really love to see what you can come up with!

Data Source

The dataset this week was sourced from Wikipedia. Please be sure to cite the source on your viz.