The project

The project ‘Swimming World Records throughout History’ is part of a master thesis that explores how motion can be used in visualizations. Movements and transformations are often used as an add-on of the design. The thesis reveals that this type of implementations can be used with four communication goals:

The ultimate goal of this thesis is to argue that motion in visualizations is not a gratuitous element but, on the contrary, a component that can influence how users interact and understand the design.

The Swimming World Records throughout History project was developed with various goals. The most important one, related to this thesis, was to explore the data using motion, finding the problems of the theory and understanding how information designers can employ movements and transformations. The other objectives were, first, to analyze the data and find patterns —when there were more records broken, for example— and, secondly, visualize it for a general public, for people that might or might not be interested in this sport. Attract them, making them want to know more about swimming, beyond the traditional competitions seasons.

To do so, the project uses three ways to visualize the data. The first one, Competition of speeds, shows how fast each record is through a metaphorical and visual competition; the second one, Speed improvements, focuses on analyzing how much the average speeds of the records have increased in the different swimming events; and the third one, Analytical visualization, offers a more in-depth view of the data providing information about swimmers’ nationality and record’s total times.

Motion is present in the three designs in different forms, achieving, also, different tasks:

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The Data

The data used comes from Wikipedia, a non-official source that provides information about Swimming World Records that have been broken since 1906 is the non-official source that provides the most data. The current database of this project, which only lists long course records, consists of 2,360 entries (one per swimmer breaking a record) with information about specific competitions, sex, times, dates, nationality, continent nationality, and location of the event.

Other official sources are the Swimming International Federation (FINA) or USA Swimming. Fina provides information about the last record broken in each event and USA Swimming, on the other hand, offers information about the records that have been broken since the sixties.