economics

51 posts
Excel is the graveyard of charts, no!

It's true that Excel is responsible for large numbers of horrible charts. I just came across a typical example recently: This figure comes from Edward Wolff's 2012 paper, "The Asset Price Meltdown and the Wealth of the Middle Class." It's got all the hallmarks of Excel defaults. It's not a pleasing object to look at. However, it's also true that Excel can be used to make nice charts. Here is...

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Getting into the heads of the chart designer

When I look at this chart (from Business Insider), I try to understand the decisions made by its designer - which things are important to her/him, and which things are less important. The chart shows average salaries in the top 2 percent of income earners. The data are split by gender and by state. First, I notice that the designer chooses to use the map form. This decision suggests that...

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The salaries are attractive but the chart isn’t

The only reason why the IEEE Spectrum magazine editors chose this chart form is because they think they need to deliver precise salary figures to readers. This chart is just so... sad. The color scheme is all wrong, the black suggesting a funeral. The printed data occupying at least half of the width of each bar frustrate any attempt to compare lengths. We enter an unusual place where higher numbers...

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Details, details, details: giving Zillow a pie treatment

This chart (shown right), published by Zillow in a report on housing in 2012, looks quite standard, apparently avoiding the worst of Excel defaults. In real estate, it’s all about location. In dataviz, it’s all about details. What are some details that I caught my eye on this chart? Readers have to get over the hurdle that “negative equity” is the same as “underwater homes.” This is not readily understood...

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Starstruck and doubled over: losing poise over Indian charts

Twitter follower @ashwink_s didn't see eye-to-eye with the following charts that appeared in an Indian publication. There is the infamous racetrack chart: In the racetrack chart, the designer has embedded data in the angles at the center of the concentric circles but the visual cues point to the arc lengths. If the same proportion of people voted Yes as voted No, the two arcs should look like this: The length...

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Another simple Excel chart needs help

Twitter friend Jimmy A. asked if I can help Elon Musk make this chart "more readable". Let's start with a couple of things he did right. Placing SpaceX, his firm's data, at the bottom of the chart is perfect, as the bottom part of a stacked column chart is the only part that is immediately readable. Combining all of Europe into one category and Other U.S. into one group reduce...

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The art of arranging bars

Twitter friend Janie H. asked how I would visualize a hypothetical third column of this chart that contains the change from 2016 to 2017: This table records the results from a survey question by eMarketer, asking respondents ("marketers") to identify their top 5 technology priorities in the next 12 months. I suggested the following: A hype-chasing phenomemon is clearly at play. Internet of Things and wearable technology are so last...

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Some like it packed, some like it piled, and some like it wrapped

In addition to Xan's "packed bars" (which I discussed here), there are some related efforts to improve upon the treemap. To recap, treemap is a design to show parts against the whole, and it works by packing rectangles into the bounding box. Frequently, this leads to odd-shaped rectangles, e.g. really thin and really tall ones, and it asks readers to estimate relative areas of differently-scaled boxes. We often make mistakes...

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What do we think of the “packed” bar chart?

Xan Gregg - my partner in the #onelesspie campaign to replace terrible Wikipedia pie charts one at a time - has come up with a new chart form that he calls "packed bars". It's a combination of bar charts and the treemap. Here is an example of a packed barchart, in which the top 10 companies on the S&P500 index are displayed: What he's doing is to add context to...

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The art of contaminating data

This is one of those innocent-looking charts that could have been a poster child for artistic embellishment. The straightforward time-series chart is deemed too boring. The designer shows admirable constraint in inserting “information-free” content, such as the dense gridlines (graph paper) and the 3D effect (ticker). Seem harmless but not really. Here I turn off the color. After the 3D effect is applied, the reader no longer knows whether to...

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