Information for a Visual Age

U.S. Exports to Asia

In Asia, Infographics on December 10, 2008 at 2:24 pm

This is an annotated map I produced for the Asia Matters for America website:

The lines in the map above represent U.S. merchandise exports to Asia, by U.S. state and Asian country in 2007. The thinnest lines represent exports of greater than U.S.$2.5 billion; mid-thickness lines, greater than $5 billion; thickest lines, greater than $10 billion.

This image functions both as an infographic and as a introductory image to the Asia Matters project. It is the first image visible on the homepage, so I wanted to make it beautiful and iconic. At the same time, the entire website is dedicated to representing data in innovative, graphical ways. As such, the image needed to convey information — or at the very least, convey the concept of conveying information.

I think it succeeds. The lines clearly show clusters of high-density/high-value trade with Asian trade partners. Beyond the obvious Japan, China, Taiwan and South Korea, we also have Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and India. An early draft of this visualization used straight lines between the U.S. origin and Asia destination. However, by curving the lines I was able to make each line distinct, even at this relatively low level of resolution. It was more work to custom curve each line, but well worth it in the end.

However, at the scale and resolution of a website image, I was unable to label the origins and destinations. This is unfortunate because there is some interesting data being displayed. The obvious exporters to Asia are well-represented: California and Washington State have bold lines running to Japan, China and others. Texas and New York are also clearly visible. Less visible are the two lines originating just east of Texas: they represent Louisiana’s trade with Japan and China, which is quite significant.

The beautiful background world image is courtesy of NASA’s Blue Marble.

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  1. Hi, good post. I have been wondering about this issue,so thanks for posting.

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