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68 posts
Vaccine researchers discard the start-at-zero rule

I struggled to decide on which blog to put this post. The reality is it bridges the graphical and analytical sides of me. But I ultimately placed it on the dataviz blog because that's where today's story starts. Data visualization has few set-in-stone rules. If pressed for one, I'd likely cite the "start-at-zero" rule, which has featured regularly on Junk Charts (here, here, and here, for example). This rule only...

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A note to science journal editors: require better visuals

In reviewing a new small-scale study of the Moderna vaccine, I found this chart: This style of charts is quite common in scientific papers. And they are horrible. It irks me to think that some authors are forced to adopt such styles. The study's main goal is to compare two half doses to two full doses of the Moderna vaccine. (To understand the science, read the post on my book...

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Handling partial data on graphics

Last week, I posted on the book blog a piece about excess deaths and accelerated deaths (link). That whole piece is about how certain types of analysis have to be executed at certain moments of time.  The same analysis done at the wrong time yields the wrong conclusions. Here is a good example of what I'm talking about. This is a graph of U.S. monthly deaths from Covid-19 during the...

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These are the top posts of 2020

It's always very interesting as a writer to look back at a year's of posts and find out which ones were most popular with my readers. Here are the top posts on Junk Charts from 2020: How to read this chart about coronavirus risk This post about a New York Times scatter plot dates from February, a time when many Americans were debating whether Covid-19 was just the flu. Proportions...

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This holiday retailers hope it will snow dollars

According to the Conference Board, the pandemic will not deter U.S. consumers from emptying their wallets this holiday season. Here's a chart that shows their expectation (link):   A few little things make this chart work: The "More" category is placed on the left, as English-speaking countries tend to be read Left-to-Right, and it is also given the deepest green, drawing our attention. Only the "More" segments have data labels....

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Visualizing change over time: case study via Arstechnica

ArsTechnica published the following chart in its article titled "Grim new analyses spotlight just how hard the U.S. is failing in  pandemic" (link). There are some very good things about this chart, so let me start there. In a Trifecta Checkup, I'd give the Q corner high marks. The question is clear: how has the U.S. performed relative to other countries? In particular, the chart gives a nuanced answer to...

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Avoid concentric circles

A twitter follower sent me this chart by way of Munich: The logo of the Munich Security Conference (MSC) is quite cute. It looks like an ear. Perhaps that inspired this, em, staggered donut chart. I like to straighten curves out so the donut chart becomes a bar chart: The blue and gray bars mimic the lengths of the arcs in the donut chart. The yellow bars show the relative...

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Bloomberg made me digest these graphics slowly

Ask the experts to name the success metric of good data visualization, and you will receive a dozen answers. The field doesn't have an all-encompassing metric. A useful reference is Andrew Gelman and Antony Urwin (2012) in which they discussed the tradeoff between beautiful and informative, which derives from the familiar tension between art and science. For a while now, I've been intrigued by metrics that measure "effort". Some years...

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Making better pie charts if you must

I saw this chart on an NYU marketing twitter account: The graphical design is not easy on our eyes. It's just hard to read for various reasons. The headline sounds like a subject line from an email. The subheaders are long, and differ only by a single word. Even if one prefers pie charts, they can be improved by following a few guidelines. First, start the first sector at the...

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Election visuals: three views of FiveThirtyEight’s probabilistic forecasts

As anyone who is familiar with Nate Silver's forecasting of U.S. presidential elections knows, he runs a simulation that explores the space of possible scenarios. The polls that provide a baseline forecast make certain assumptions, such as who's a likely voter. Nate's model unshackles these assumptions from the polling data, exploring how the outcomes vary as these assumptions shift. In the most recent simulation, his computer explores 40,000 scenarios, each...

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