How Two Designers Visualize Amazon’s Data Differently

It’s infographics meets Iron Chef as two data viz experts debate each other one the best way to make sense of Amazon’s bestseller database!

Data visualization is just as much an art as it is a science, which is why there are many different ways that a single set of data can be visualized. At today’s Innovation By Design 2014 conference, two New York-based data viz studios showed us their indivdual approaches to interpreting Amazon’s complex bestseller database. It was the Iron Chef of data viz, and the resulting work couldn’t have been any more different.

First up was Giorgia Lupi, founder and creative director of Accurat. Accurat decided to approach Amazon’s dataset thoroughly, resulting in three complex, poster-sized visualizations that attempted to represent a wide range of data including the retail price, genre, chart position, and color palette of over 1,500 books spread across five countries. “We don’t think complex analysis can be made through very simple bar charts and pie charts,” Lupi told the audience. “So we try to represent the complexity, but still make it easy to explore.”

Marc Maleh, the managing director of R/GA, took a very different approach to the same visualization. “I believe in the ‘Mom’ test,” says Maleh. “My mom barely understands what I do, so if she can understand my work, I consider it a success.” No surprise, then, that R/GA’s visualization turned out to be considerably less complex than Accurat’s.

Instead of trying to represent the total complexity of Amazon’s data set, it focused on just a few areas: it examined the color palettes of best sellers in four genres (Romance, Thrillers, Sci-Fi and Fantasy, and Self-Help), each of which tends to use a few distinct colors in book covers. R/GA then created an interactive visualization that allowed users to drill down into the data of books based upon the Pantone fingerprint of the covers.

Accurat’s visualizations can be found online here, as well as an explanation of its process. Some animated GIFs of R/GA’s visualization can be seen in the slide show above.

Which one do you prefer? Let us know why in the comments.

About the author

John Brownlee is a design writer who lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. You can email him at



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