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Visualizing the New London Through Beautiful Data-Powered Graphics

The new book London: The Information Capital, brings data on the city's economics, housing, and tourism to life through stunning graphic visualizations.

Within a given 12 months, trains on London’s subway systems will travel more than 46 million miles. The city’s residents take around 2.4 billion bus journeys annually, while last year London’s emergency services dealt with 32,500 people incapacitated by binge drinking alone. These are just some of the head-spinning facts explored by a beautiful new book on London published today.

Created by Geographer James Cheshire and visual designer Oliver Uberti, London: The Information Capital brings data on the city alive through stunning visualizations. Turning potentially dull figures into striking images, the pair has created maps and diagrams that variously resemble patchwork, colored vapor trails, and melting metal. Some of these visualizations show how how difficult life in London can be (the book contains a map showing how areas affordable for a couple on the city's median income are shrinking fast, for example). The overall impression, however, is of the city’s incredible vitality—a place teeming with variety and constant movement, where citizens engage with each other through intensely held affiliations. Here are a few preview images from the book. Click the links below the images to enlarge.

Relationship Status

(London: The Information Capital) Click to enlarge.

These maps show singles clustering in Central London, while married couples and widows gravitate outwards to the city’s leafier fringes. So far, so obvious—except that the trend isn’t powered by a yen for child-friendly space and calm.  Given the high cost of renting in London, only the wealthiest singles here live alone. Most unmarrieds cohabit with friends, a trend helped along by London’s relative dearth of smaller apartments. Large areas of the city are covered with Victorian and Edwardian houses that have been haphazardly carved up into smaller units, but it’s still not uncommon to find younger people living together in houses with up to 6 bedrooms. Living with friends may be okay if you’re solo, but having roommates as a couple is less fun. Hence, when people pair up, they’re more likely to head outward to cheaper pastures.

As for the maps showing separated or divorced Londoners, they might make people in relationships avoid Tottenham, North London, out of superstition. The likely reason for this high concentration, however, is that this is one of London’s cheaper areas for property, and thus more attractive to people who are moving from a dual to a single income.

Football Tribes

(London: The Information Capital) Click to enlarge.

This map shows which neighborhoods follow which soccer teams, based on the number of team mentions each area posts on Twitter. Difficult to decipher without a key, the red squares refer to North London’s Arsenal team, which by geographical area alone appears to be London’s most popular team. Arsenal’s still being given a fair run for its money by Russian-owned Chelsea, in dark blue, with a notable showing around its stadium for South London’s Crystal Palace, shown in yellow.

These lines are themselves partly shifting, of course. I grew up in North London on the geographical fault line between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur (shown here in sky blue), and my high-school classmates’ affiliations used to swing from one team to the other depending on their league positions—though they always denied ever having thought differently.

They Came, They Saw, They Spent

(London: The Information Capital) Click to enlarge.

Americans may make up most of London’s tourist concentration, but as this chart on London visitors and what they spend shows, their pockets aren’t the deepest.  On average, London’s U.S. visitors spent £800 ($1,290) a person—a generous amount, but far short of the £2,700 ($4,335) spent by the average Saudi visitor.  Still, as the chart acknowledges, The United States' relatively low position in the chart’s spending stakes is slightly misleading. France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Ireland, and Sweden all sent over half a million visitors to London in 2012. As their average spend was below £500 ($807)—presumably because they were mainly on short breaks—they don’t feature on the chart.

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