Current Affairs

138 posts
Make your color legend better with one simple rule

The pie chart about COVID-19 worries illustrates why we should follow a basic rule of constructing color legends: order the categories in the way you expect readers to encounter them. Here is the chart that I discussed the other day, with the data removed since they are not of concern in this post. (link) First look at the pie chart. Like me, you probably looked at the orange or the...

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Graphing the economic crisis of coronavirus 2

Last week, I discussed Ray's chart that compares the S&P 500 performance in this crisis against previous crises. A reminder: Another useful feature is the halo around the right edge of the COVID-19 line. This device directs our eyes to where he wants us to look. In the same series, he made the following for The Conference Board (link): Two things I learned from this chart: The oil market takes...

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When the visual runs away from the data

The pressure of the coronavirus news cycle has gotten the better of some graphics designers. Via Twitter, Mark B sent me the following chart: I applied the self-sufficiency test to this pie chart. That's why you can't see the data which were also printed on the chart. The idea of self-sufficiency is to test how much work the visual elements of the graphic are doing to convey its message. Look...

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The epidemic of simple comparisons

Another day, another Twitter user sent a sloppy chart featured on TV news. This CNN graphic comes from Hugo K. by way of Kevin T. And it's another opportunity to apply the self-sufficiency test. Like before, I removed the data printed on the graphic. In reading this chart, we like to know the number of U.S. reported cases of coronavirus relative to China, and Italy relative to the U.S. So,...

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Graphing the economic crisis of Covid-19

My friend Ray Vella at The Conference Board has a few charts up on their coronavirus website. TCB is a trusted advisor and consultant to large businesses and thus is a good place to learn how the business community is thinking about this crisis. I particularly like the following chart: This puts the turmoil in the stock market in perspective. We are roughly tracking the decline of the Great Recession...

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Proportions and rates: we are no dupes

Reader Lucia G. sent me this chart, from Ars Technica's FAQ about the coronavirus: She notices something wrong with the axis. The designer took the advice not to make a dual axis, but didn't realize that the two metrics are not measured on the same scale even though both are expressed as percentages. The blue bars, labeled "cases", is a distribution of cases by age group. The sum of the...

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Comparing chance of death of coronavirus and flu

The COVID-19 charts are proving one thing. When the topic of a dataviz is timely and impactful, readers will study the graphics and ask questions. I've been sent some of these charts lately, and will be featuring them here. A former student saw this chart from Business Insider (link) and didn't like it. My initial reaction was generally positive. It's clear the chart addresses a comparison between death rates of...

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It’s impossible to understand Super Tuesday, this chart says

Twitter people are talking about this chart, from NPR (link): This was published on Wednesday after Super Tuesday, the day on which multiple states held their primary elections. On the Democratic side, something like a third of the delegates were up for grabs (although as the data below this chart shows, a big chunk of the delegates, mostly from California and Texas, have yet to be assigned to a candidate...

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Whither the youth vote

The youth turnout is something that politicians and pundits bring up constantly when talking about the current U.S. presidential primaries. So I decided to look for the data. I found some data at the United States Election Project, a site maintained by Dr. Michael McDonald. The key chart is this one: This is classic Excel. *** Here is a quick fix: The key to the fix is to recognize the...

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How to read this chart about coronavirus risk

In my just-published Long Read article at DataJournalism.com, I touched upon the subject of "How to Read this Chart". Most data graphics do not come with directions of use because dataviz designers follow certain conventions. We do not need to tell you, for example, that time runs left to right on the horizontal axis (substitute right to left for those living in right-to-left countries). It's when we deviate from the...

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