Reading this chart won’t take as long as withdrawing troops from Afghanistan

Art sent me the following Economist chart, noting how hard it is to understand. I took a look, and agreed. It's an example of a visual representation that takes more time to comprehend than the underlying data. The chart presents responses to 3 questions on a survey. For each question, the choices are Approve, Disapprove, and "Neither" (just picking a word since I haven't seen the actual survey question). The...

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Two commendable student projects, showing different standards of beauty

A few weeks ago, I did a guest lecture for Ray Vella's dataviz class at NYU, and discussed a particularly hairy dataset that he assigns to students. I'm happy to see the work of the students, and there are two pieces in particular that show promise. The following dot plot by Christina Barretto shows the disparities between the richest and poorest nations increasing between 2000 and 2015. The underlying dataset...

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Metaphors, maps, and communicating data

There are some data visualization that are obviously bad. But what makes them bad? Here is an example of such an effort: This visualization of carbon emissions is not successful. There is precious little that a reader can learn from this chart without expensing a lot of effort. It's relatively easy to identify the largest emitters of carbon but since the data are not expressed per-capita, the chart mainly informs...

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Come si dice donut in italiano

One of my Italian readers sent me the following "horror chart". (Last I checked, it's not Halloween.) I mean, people are selling these rainbow sunglasses. The dataset behind the chart is the market share of steel production by country in 1992 and in 2014. The presumed story is how steel production has shifted from country to country over those 22 years. Before anything else, readers must decipher the colors. This...

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Losses trickle down while gains trickle up

In a rich dataset, it's hard to convey all the interesting insights on a single chart. Following up on the previous post, I looked further at the wealth distribution dataset. In the previous post, I showed this chart, which indicated that the relative wealth of the super-rich (top 1%) rose dramatically around 2011. As a couple of commenters noticed, that's relative wealth. I indiced everything to the Bottom 50%. In...

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Finding the hidden information behind nice-looking charts

This chart from Business Insider caught my attention recently. (link) There are various things they did which I like. The use of color to draw a distinction between the top 3 lines and the line at the bottom - which tells the story that the bottom 50% has been left far behind. Lines being labelled directly is another nice touch. I usually like legends that sit atop the chart; in...

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Pies, bars and self-sufficiency

Andy Cotgreave asked Twitter followers to pick between pie charts and bar charts: The underlying data are proportions of people who say they won't get the coronavirus vaccine. I noticed two somewhat unusual features: the use of pies to show single proportions, and the aspect ratio of the bars (taller than typical). Which version is easier to understand? To answer this question, I like to apply a self-sufficiency test. This...

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And you thought that pie chart was bad…

Vying for some of the worst charts of the year, Adobe came up with a few gems in its Digital Trends Survey. This was a tip from Nolan H. on Twitter. There are many charts that should be featured; I'll focus on this one. This is one of those survey questions that allow each respondent to select multiple responses so that adding up the percentages exceeds 100%. The survey asks...

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Re-engineering #onelesspie

Marco tweeted the following pie chart to me (tip from Danilo), which is perfect since today is Pi Day, and I have to do my #onelesspie duty. This started a few years ago with Xan Gregg. This chart supposedly was published in an engineering journal. I don't have a clue what the question might be that this chart is purportedly answering. Maybe the reason for picking a cellphone? The particular...

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The time has arrived for cumulative charts

Long-time reader Scott S. asked me about this Washington Post chart that shows the disappearance of pediatric flu deaths in the U.S. this season: The dataset behind this chart is highly favorable to the designer, because the signal in the data is so strong. This is a good chart. The key point is shown clearly right at the top, with an informative title. Gridlines are very restrained. I'd draw attention...

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