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My Favorite Source for State Icons to Use in Data Visualizations

Jun 25th, 2019 / Data Visualization / , ,

Does the first draft of your report or slideshow have way too much text? Are you looking for strategies for transforming your wall of text into an effective visual? Do you worry that you’re just not a visual person? Are you hesitant to add visuals to your projects because you think it’ll take forever and blow your budget?

If so, I wrote this article for you!

This is one of mannnny techniques for transforming words into visuals.

Let’s say you’ve got a bullet point list about U.S. states, like this:

A two-column list of states. The three states on the left have increased on some fictional variable, while the three states on the right have decreased on some fictional variable.

This is a good first draft, but let’s keep going. Icons can boost the memorability of our findings. So let’s add icons:

In this makeover of the bullet point list, the state names have been replaced with state shapes or "icons." For example, the word "Georgia" is now replaced with a small silhouette of the state of Georgia.

Let’s add more icons—the arrows, which I downloaded here from the Noun Project—to further help our viewers understand that we’re talking about a variable that increased or decreased:

In this makeover, we also added arrows. The section on the left talks about states where a fictional variable increased, so there's an arrow pointing upwards. The section on the right talks about states that decreased, so there's an arrow pointing downwards.

And don’t forget to color-code and bold a few key words to make the remaining text more skimmable:

In this final makeover, we made a couple keywords stand out (the words "increased" and "decreased") by changing the font color and by making the fonts bold.

Want to make something like this? I hope so! It’s easy.

I’m going to show you the magic trick I used to create each of the state icons.

I typed some letters into text boxes on my slide:

This is a screenshot from Microsoft PowerPoint, where I'm showing how I typed in the letters J, A, E into text boxes.

And changed the font to StateFace:

This is a screenshot of my Microsoft PowerPoint slide where I'm showing the font drop-down menu where you would simply change the font from Calibri/Times/Arial/whatever you're using into StateFace to get the state shapes to appear.

StateFace is a magic font that lets you turn regular ol’ letters into state outlines:

This is a screenshot of the StateFace "Keyboard Map," which tells you which letter produces which state shape.

How to Install the StateFace Font

Here’s how you download the StateFace font onto your computer.

1. Go to https://www.fontsquirrel.com/fonts/stateface

Font Squirrel is the website where I download lots of my custom fonts. (I also download fonts from www.google.com/fonts.)

A screenshot of the Font Squirrel website.

2. Click on the Download OTF button

Within a few seconds, a Zip folder will begin downloading onto your computer.

Do you work for a Federal or state government agency? Or an organization with strict downloading rules? This is where you might need to pause and get your IT administrator’s permission. It’s worth the extra paperwork! StateFace is such a versatile font. I use it all the time in my visualizations.

A screenshot showing the "Download OTF" button and the Zip folder that will start downloading onto your computer.

3. Open the Zip folder

Mine ends up in my Downloads folder.

A screenshot of the "Downloads" folder on my computer.

4. Click on the StateFace Regular file and select Install

My Downloads folder has two files in it. Click on the StateFace Regular file. You’ll see a pop-up window, like this one. Click on the Install button.

A screenshot of the StateFace "Install" button.

5. Begin Using StateFace in PowerPoint, Word, Excel, etc.

Your new font will show up in PowerPoint, Word, Excel, and so on.

A screenshot of my Microsoft Word document with the StateFace font listed in the drop-down list of fonts.

You’ll want to refer back to the Keyboard Map regularly to figure out which letter produces which state shape. You can view the Keyboard Map here: https://propublica.github.io/stateface/

This is a screenshot of the StateFace "Keyboard Map," which tells you which letter produces which state shape.

Within minutes, we’ve transformed our forgettable bullet point list into a straightforward and great-looking visual. We could include this visual in the executive summary of a report or as one of the introductory slides in our presentation.

The "before" version with bullet points is shown on the left and the "after" version with icons is shown on the right.

Your Turn

Have you used the StateFace font in your project? Comment and let me know how you used it! This is just a fictional example, and we’d all benefit from hearing about real-life scenarios where it was helpful.

Bonus: Download My Slides

Want to explore how I created this simple visual? Download my slides and use them however you’d like.

(I’m using custom fonts and colors here–Montserrat and StateFace–so the file will look a little different on your computer.)


Download my slides

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