Two neat data visualization tools recently came on the scene which will be a great help for journalists and datamongers alike: Sparktweets and Chartwell.
Sparktweets is the brainchild of Zach Seward, Outreach Editor for The Wall Street Journal. Sparktweets builds on Edward Tufte’s invention, the sparkline, which is a small, high-resolution graph embedded in a context of words, numbers, or images. You see these mostly used on financial websites to describe the rise and fall of stocks, but Sparktweets takes this idea and builds on it by embedding Unicode histograms within Twitter’s 140-character limit. The effect is pretty neat. Take a look at these.
▁▆▇▃ Number of baby boys named Barack, 2007-2010. (5,52,69,28) #sparktweet
Create your own Sparktweets here: http://www.datacollective.org/sparkblocks.html
The second tool I came across recently is a font called Chartwell from font designer Travis Kochel with TK Type. Creating pie charts, line graphs, and bar graphs has never been so simple. Just type your data numbers into an equation and you can have a graph in just a few seconds. In line with current trends, you can also embed the use of this font using the CSS3 property @font-face to create live charts on the fly (currently, this only works in Firefox 4). Travis includes more information on the Chartwell page at http://www.tktype.com/chartwell.php.
The fonts are $15 each (pie, bar, or line), or $40 for the entire set.