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 the number of necessary colors.

Why is this chart unreadable? Here is a line-up of the culprits:

  • Red Russia is stealing the thunder
  • SpaceX is sharing the blues with Japan/China/Other U.S.
  • The legend is sorted in the opposite way as the column segments (courtesy of Excel defaults)
  • Axis labels given to two decimal places for market share split only a small number of ways
  • It's unclear what "market share" means: is it share of the number of launches or the revenues generated by those launches? Is the "base" of the market share changing over time?
  • The last two columns are speculative and these are the two years in which SpaceX has a noticeable advantage (unless they are talking about contracts already concluded)

 According to the underlying data, there are some very big changes at foot. The following small-multiples chart shows what is going on:





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