A while back I read “What’s Up With Tag Clouds?” (PDF) over at Perceptual Edge – the paper noted that word clouds were mostly ineffective visualizations based on design criteria – they don’t tend to have a strong visual centre and they don’t lead your eye through the information in a useful way.
Since then, I’ve discovered Wordle.
This cool little web app addresses some of the design issues with word clouds – when I was playing with it, I found that the most important terms really pop, especially when strong colours are used. It’s cool to see that there’s customization available – choosing fonts and colour palettes and alignment options and so on.
Here’s a couple of clouds I made.
This one is built from the titles of the 95 publications that were released by Industry Canada in 2007 and so far in 2008 (Industry Canada is the federal government Department that I work for). Pretty much what I’d expect – “Business” and “Small” and “Canada” and “Canadian” are the big terms. And small business is a big part of what Industry Canada does.
This one is made from the titles of the 71 news releases issued by Industry Canada so far this year. The prominence of the word “BizPal” stands out – but then again there have been a LOT of news releases (27 to be exact) about this program this year. The other thing that pops out are the two verbs, “appointed” and “launched” – decisions were made and things were done…
I didn’t play with the new options for keeping words together, which would definitely change how these clouds look.