About Drawing by Numbers

Why visualise data?

Outstanding data visualisations allow the scale and dimensions of a story to emerge. These three visualisations reveal previously hidden dimensions about the US-led Occupation of Iraq. All three take different visual forms but are based on similar datasets - deaths and casualties in Iraq.

This infographic represents information about the location and type of attack resulting in 2592 deaths of US and Coaliation Troops, Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga militias. Civilian casualties were not included. The number was too large to accomodate in this graphic which covered one full page of the newspaper.

A Year in Iraq, Adriana Lins de Albuquerque & Alice Cheng, New York Times (2008).


(click to enlarge)


Wonder why the image on the right looks like a defragmenting hard-disk? That's because it shows the number of deaths in Iraq over time (each colour represents a different segment of the troops and civilians killed). The image on the left just shows the sum totals of deaths by type. This infographic is based on data released by Wikileaks, and reported in the Guardian newspaper, about deaths in Iraq from January 2004 to December 2009.

Function, Kamel Makhloufi (2010)



This interactive map visualises the deaths of US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2001-2012. It shows where soldiers died, who they were and where they were from in the US.

Home and Away, Stamen, CNN (2010)



About this website

Data visualisation is an effective tool in campaigning, strategic planning, education and analysis. Visualisation and data tools are democratising the use of information by civil society. Thanks to the emergence of easy-to-use tools it is now possible to make maps, interactive charts, network diagrams and other visual creations with limited or no technical knowledge.
On this site you will find:

Who this site is for

This site is for activists and data journalists who want to use data and design to strengthen their campaigns and for advocates and activists to inspire them to create visualisations of their evidence.
We would also like to involve information designers and data specialists to contribute their skills and ideas.

How to use this site

Are you a beginner with no experience of using data visualisation tools?
Start by clarifying your aims with the Data & Design How-to's. This area of the site will help you think about the information you have (or want to aggregate), the format it's in, who you want to share it with and how. You may also find our earlier Information Design guide a handy introduction to this field.
Have you got some information collated and sorted, and an idea of why you'd like to visualise it?
Explore the Tools & Resources section and jump into playing around with your data. If you make some neat visualisations with a tool, we'd love to showcase it on this site. So keep us in the loop and tell us how it goes.

Why we made this site

Tactical Tech has been thinking about and working with data and design in activism for over a decade. Some of us brought creativity to campaigns and others introduced evidence into them. Some of us have spent time on the ground collecting evidence, trawling through 82 column-wide spreadsheets, living ear-deep in paper. Others have tried to nurture the creative spirit of NGOs: dragging them out of the '60 page report' syndrome. As designers, activists, technologists and researchers, we have spent the past 10 years looking for opportunities to bridge disciplines: to bring design and information technologies into the world of activism.

We are information activists and we use our skills to help others become information activists too.