Add Raw to Your Roster of Visualization Tools

Nov 5, 2013
The Why Axis

Raw is a new web-based tool developed by Density Design. It was born out of their daily studio practice and has now been released to the masses. The team hopes Raw will solve a common problem for a large number of visualizers by filling the gap between spreadsheets and vector graphics.

Featuring drag and drop functionality with live reload, Raw is immediately more intuitive than most data handling applications. It easily trumps Excel in both usability and aesthetics. Its creators highlight that:

"It is not intended to be a full “visualization tool” like Tableau or other similar products: as the name suggests it is a sketch tool, useful for quick and preliminary data explorations as well as for generating editable visualizations."

The Why Axis

Don't have data on hand? Raw has you covered with some sample data sets. Each is structured to work better with different layouts, but discovering which fit best is less than intuitive. The labels on the data sets help but Raw could go a step further by recommending specific layouts that suit the data or by selecting smart layout defaults for each sample. There's an opportunity for users learn more about visualization simply by playing with the tool. The 'sketch' tone of the app is already a good learning environment that could be bolstered with stronger help and guidance along the way.

The Why Axis

It's also worth noting that these layouts aren't your average bar or pie. They're fairly specialized visualization types that are certainly useful but don't strike me as the most widely used. So how did Density Design chose to focus on this set?

"Many of the layouts come from works we have done in the last years (e.g. “Design Research Map”, “Link#10: Decode or die”, or the works we did for “La Lettura Corriere della Sera”). These layouts allow us to perform a series of visual analysis that are not possible with other techniques already available in softwares such as Microsoft Excel or Adobe Illustrator. Some others (e.g. dendrograms or sunbursts) come directly from d3.js (or its community) and we decided to include them as well, also to test how difficult it could be to add new layouts in Raw. We avoided “simple layouts” like bar charts or pie charts just because there are plenty of tools that allow you to create them in simple and effective ways.

More layouts are already in the works for the the tool and since the project is hosted on Github, any D3 developer can contribute new layouts.

In the end, Raw is a research tool, self-funded and built by a research organization. Density Design used the launch to gauge reactions to the tool and in the long term:

Our hope is to create a community around the tool, in order to gather new ideas and discuss uses (and misuses) of visual layouts... We are still in the process of understanding and evaluating the possible solutions and thus suggestions and/or collaborations are very welcome!

What features or chart types would you like to see added to Raw next? Are simpler chart types important or are they covered well enough by existing software?

[Update] Version 1.0

Version 1.0 of RAW has been released with, among other things, more chart types!

  • Clustered Force Layout
  • Convex Hull
  • Delaunay Triangulation
  • Parallel Coordinates
  • Streamgraph
  • Voronoi Tesselation

See them in action by using documentation also make it easier to add new chart types as well.

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