Finance

17 posts
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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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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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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February talks, and exploratory data analysis using visuals

News: In February, I am bringing my dataviz lecture to various cities: Atlanta (Feb 7), Austin (Feb 15), and Copenhagen (Feb 28). Click on the links for free registration. I hope to meet some of you there. *** On the sister blog about predictive models and Big Data, I have been discussing aspects of a dataset containing IMDB movie data. Here are previous posts (1, 2, 3). The latest instalment...

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Lines that delight, lines that blight

This WSJ graphic caught my eye. The accompanying article is here. The article (judging from the sub-header) makes two separate points, one about the total amount of money raised in IPOs in a year, and the change in market value of those newly-public companies one year from the IPO date. The first metric is shown by the size of the bubbles while the second metric is displayed as distances from...

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Round things, square things

The following chart traces the flow of funds into AI (artificial intelligence) startups. I found it on this webpage and it is attributed to Financial Times. Here, I apply the self-sufficiency test to show that the semicircles are playing no role in the visualization. When the numbers are removed, readers cannot understand the data at all. So the visual elements are toothless. Actually, it's worse. The data got encoded in...

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Depicting imbalance, straying from the standard chart

My friend Tonny M. sent me a tip to two pretty nice charts depicting the state of U.S. healthcare spending (link). The first shows U.S. as an outlier: This chart is a replica of the Lane Kenworthy chart, with some added details, that I have praised here before. This chart remains one of the most impactful charts I have seen. The added time-series details allow us to see a divergence...

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