All posts by jessihamel

Executive Order data visualization tool to shed light on every documented order signed by a US president

Anyone watching the news lately has come across often heated discussions about executive orders. But what exactly are executive orders and what do they entail? More importantly, given the polarizing political spectrum as of late, how do executive orders of one president differ from another? In researching the answer to these questions, we came across several notable sources that would list out executive orders, such as the American Presidency Project but we wanted to have a more comprehensive tool that would let us view the orders, their differences and have the ability to research them deeper. So we built a Presidential Executive Orders data visualization tool to navigate every documented executive order and compare the patterns between presidencies. This tool also allows you to search for specific words and their use in the orders, compare political party orders, year-by-year, and to read each order in its entirety.


What are Executive Orders?

Executive Orders are legal documents issued by U.S. Presidents during their time in office. They are used to clarify law, set priorities, and influence the workings of the Federal government. Although the use of executive orders has varied during the course of U.S. history, taken together they offer a glimpse into the priorities of different presidents and the changing affairs of the U.S. government.

Why are we doing this project?

Since executive orders and published presidential memoranda have the full force of law and can have wide-ranging impacts in the United States and abroad, it is important to be able to explore and understand them in a historical context. Until now there has been no easy way to do so. This tool enables journalists, policy makers, researchers and the public to explore executive orders and search for terms of interest. Orders are sized by length and can be sorted by president, year, or party affiliation. Clicking on an order shows the full order text as well keywords relevant to the text. From there you can search the text for the keywords or search for all orders containing that word.


Example of searching orders that contain ‘Environment’

How are we doing it?

This project includes all executive orders and executive order counts published as part of the American Presidency Project hosted at the University of California, Santa Barbara. It also includes all presidential memoranda since 2000 published in the Federal Register. Order keywords were extracted and ranked with the help of IBM Watson’s Alchemy Language service. President portraits are sourced from Wikimedia Commons.


Clicking on an order allows you to read each order in its entirety with relevant details such as presidential information helpful keywords to depict the contents of the order.

This project was made by Pitch Interactive, a data visualization studio whose aim is to facilitate the understand of complex issues and relationships through visual representations to help us better educate ourselves and make more informed decisions and judgements. For any questions, please email

Happy Holidata

The holidays are upon us! 2016 has been a busy year here at Pitch, but we’ve been getting into the spirit of the season as we make our annual holiday cards.

This year’s card features a snowflake that uses two data points in its generation: how long we’ve known the recipient and the air quality where we’re sending the card. It is unique to the person we sent it to, and no two snowflakes are alike.

After getting some inspiration from dozens of photos of snowflakes, we brainstormed about the different types of symmetry and shapes that would make our design. We then generated the snowflake with a script that draws a certain number of radial spikes based on how long we’ve known the person we were sending them to. Other parameters for the generation rely on random numbers, ensuring that each generated snowflake was completely unique.


After plugging in our recipients’ data we exported the generated snowflakes to our Axidraw, a pen plotter that can draw complicated designs with any pen you put in it. Each snowflake took anywhere from 5-10 minutes to draw, depending on its complexity. The color we chose for the snowflake depended on the air quality where it would be sent to:


Our little axidraw robot did a good job of drawing all of the complicated snowflake line paths, and we even used it to draw the addresses on the envelopes and the message on the back of the card.


We love that we get to share our art and designs with our wonderful friends and clients. Thank you to you all and we wish you a very, very happy holidata!


You can see all of the snowflakes we made in this animated snowstorm. The source is available on github as well.