Infographic of the Day: Google Charts What Your Taxes Pay For


Do you really know what your taxes are paying for? Google and Eyebeam gallery want you to figure out the answer, in their very first Data Visualization Challenge, which offers $10,000 in prizes. And as fodder for inspiration, they’ve created this nifty little chart:


[Click to see interactive version]

As you can see, it simply tells you how much you paid in taxes, and shows, in the bubble chart below, where the federal government spent every dollar. But the coolest part is contained in the slider all the way up at the top right. Using it, you can change the year; the chart above shows what your taxes went towards in 1987. The chart below shows what they went towards in 2010:


Pretty cool right? Using the slider, you get a sense of how the countries priorities have changed over time — for example, in 1987, at the tail end of the Cold War, defense spending was much higher — and also the tremendous burdens that Medicare and Social Security have become.


But as we mentioned above, the chart is really meant to be inspiration. Drawn from, it gives you just an inkling of the vast data set available — and, more interestingly, suggests all sorts of challenges a tax visualization could meet. What should we care about most in our tax policy? How can a simple tax chart surprise and delight? The competition itself was inspired when Aaron Koblin, a data viz wunderkind at Google Creative Labs, stumbled across, and marveled at how much better the data could be presented — and how important the data was.

If you have ideas, you should enter the Data Viz Challenge. The deadline is March 27th, and the grand prize winner with get $5,000, while five different category winners will get $1,000 each. As to categories, these should give you a good idea of the great potential within any infographic:

Storytelling: Uses narrative, point of view, or tone to tell a persuasive story.

Clarity: Presents information that is accessible, accurate, and meaningful.

Relevance: Communicates information that is timely, personal, or relatable.

Utility: Provides insights that can inform action.

Aesthetics: Embodies beauty, balance, and visual originality.

Please enter! As part of the steering committee and judging panel, we’ll be watching.

About the author

Cliff is director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.