Create an SVG data visualisation with PHP

A good programmer is a lazy programmer. In a growing world of data visualisations, handcrafting each design won't scale. I wanted to see if there was a way to create aspects of visualisations using a program, to make the output easy to create and reusable. Much like the UNIX philosophy of loosely joined programs, was it possible to build up a small toolbox of loosely joined scripts that create building blocks of visualisations?

There doesn't seem to be an accepted term for this. I have heard the phrases "deterministic design", "programmatic design" and "computational design". What they are all aiming for is the ability to consistently create some graphic element based on data input.

We see this in the real world all the time. The old mercury thermometers took data from the environment, the temperature, and converted that into a visualisation by moving the mercury up the pipette. What is the digital equivalent?

There are a few candidate technologies. If you’re working online, then canvas springs to mind. It allows you to draw raster graphics quickly and easily. If you want, there are also plenty of image code libraries that can generate GIFs, JPEGs and PNGs on request. But what if your target isn't always online? What if you’re aiming for print? Then you could use a raster graphic, but it would need to be pretty large. A better solution is to create a vector-based image format from your code. This is where SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) steps in.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

The Creative Bloq team is made up of a group of design fans, and has changed and evolved since Creative Bloq began back in 2012. The current website team consists of eight full-time members of staff: Editor Georgia Coggan, Deputy Editor Rosie Hilder, Ecommerce Editor Beren Neale, Senior News Editor Daniel Piper, Editor, Digital Art and 3D Ian Dean, Tech Reviews Editor Erlingur Einarsson and Ecommerce Writer Beth Nicholls and Staff Writer Natalie Fear, as well as a roster of freelancers from around the world. The 3D World and ImagineFX magazine teams also pitch in, ensuring that content from 3D World and ImagineFX is represented on Creative Bloq.