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68 posts
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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✚ More Colors vs. Fewer Colors – The Process 127

The two approaches answer two different questions. Read More

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Reading an infographic about our climate crisis

Let's explore an infographic by SCMP, which draws attention to the alarming temperature recorded at Verkhoyansk in Russia on June 20, 2020. The original work was on the back page of the printed newspaper, referred to in this tweet. This view of the globe brings out the two key pieces of evidence presented in the infographic: the rise in temperature in unexpected places, and the shrinkage of the Arctic ice....

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Is this an example of good or bad dataviz?

This chart is giving me feelings: I first saw it on TV and then a reader submitted it. Let's apply a Trifecta Checkup to the chart. Starting at the Q corner, I can say the question it's addressing is clear and relevant. It's the relationship between Trump and McConnell's re-election. The designer's intended message comes through strongly - the chart offers evidence that McConnell owes his re-election to Trump. Visually,...

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Aligning the visual and the data

The Washington Post reported a surge in donations to the Democrats after the death of Justice Ruth Ginsberg (link). A secondary effect, perhaps unexpected, was that donors decided to spread the money around; the proportion of donors who gave to six or more candidates jumped to 65%, where normally it is at 5%. The text tells us what to look for, and the axis labels are commendably restrained. The color...

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Convincing charts showing containment measures work

The disorganized nature of U.S.'s response to the coronavirus pandemic has created a sort of natural experiment that allows data journalists to explore important scientific questions, such as the impact of containment measures on cases and hospitalizations. This New York Times article represents the best of such work. The key finding of the analysis is beautifully captured by this set of scatter plots: Each dot is a state. The cases...

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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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Locating the political center

I mentioned the September special edition of Bloomberg Businessweek on the election in this prior post. Today, I'm featuring another data visualization from the magazine. *** Here are the rightmost two charts. Time runs from top to bottom, spanning four decades. Each chart covers a political issue. These two charts concern abortion and marijuana. The marijuana question (far right) has only two answers, legalize or don't legalize. The underlying data...

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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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