The population of a country is influenced by a various number of factors including the number of immigrants, number of emigrants, mortality rate and the number of births. Considering this factor which is the number of immigrants, Pedro Cruz thinks of the United States as a tree. Cruz is an assistant professor at the Northeastern University who is into exploring new ways to visualise data. This quest made him initiate a project which involves illustration of centuries of immigration to the United States. To be more specific Cruz described the United States as a tree trunk. A tree trunk with its concentric rings demarking growth throughout the years. Generally, each concentric ring of a tree portrays the number of dead and new plant cells formed. Here, metaphorically Cruz described the formation of new plant cells as the number of new immigrants arriving in the country while the death of the plant cells as the number of emigrants. Cruz with his team of researchers collected individual responses to census questions from 1830 to 2015, to make sure the visualization represents close to three billion individual data points.
“I wanted a way to celebrate the story of immigration that has been part of this country’s history. I liked the idea of modeling the visualization after a living organism, something that’s alive and still growing,” Cruz said.
It was very crucial to represent this data in the right way, making it visually appealing as well. Cruz started with the idea of illustrating the data in layers but later on jumped on to the conclusion of illustrating the data by converting those layers into tree rings. This compared the data to that of tree’s rings, something which is living and is familiar to everyone.
“Immigration is part of the country itself. It’s what this country is made up of. Just like trees are made of cells, the United States is made of immigrants. The metaphor just made sense,” said Cruz.
However, this does not mark the end of Cruz’s work as he later also visualised the fifty U.S. states the same way, arranging each as it would appear on a map. He named that as the forest of trees. Cruz work was recognised and appeared in National Geographic. He won two awards at the Kantar “Information is Beautiful” Awards. He also won gold in the “People, Language and Identity” category as well as the “Most Beautiful” award. Cruz innovative idea helped him score such felicitations. This was indeed the most beautiful data visualisation.