Finance

140 posts
Distorting perception versus distorting the data

This chart appears in the latest ("last print issue") of Schwab's On Investing magazine: I know I don't like triangular charts, and in this post, I attempt to verbalize why. It's not the usual complaint of distorting the data. When the base of the triangle is fixed, and only the height is varied, then the area is proportional to the height and thus nothing is distorted. Nevertheless, my ability to...

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Stumped by the ATM

The neighborhood bank recently installed brand new ATMs, with tablet monitors and all that jazz. Then, I found myself staring at this screen: I wanted to withdraw $100. I ordinarily love this banknote picker because I can get the $5, $10, $20 notes, instead of $50 and $100 that come out the slot when I don't specify my preference. Something changed this time. I find myself wondering which row represents...

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Tip of the day: transform data before plotting

The Financial Times called out a twitter user for some graphical mischief. Here are the two charts illustrating the plunge in Bitcoin's price last week : (Hat tip to Mark P.) There are some big differences between the two charts. The left chart depicts this month's price actions, drawing attention to the last week while the right chart shows a longer period of time, starting from 2012. The author of...

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Atypical time order and bubble labeling

This chart appeared in a Charles Schwab magazine in Summer, 2019. This bubble chart does not print any data labels. The bubbles take our attention but the designer realizes that the actual values of the volatility are not intuitive numbers. The same is true of any standard deviation numbers. If you're told SD of a data series is 3, it doesn't tell you much by itself. I first transformed this...

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Book Review: Visualizing with Text by Richard Barth

The creative process is sometimes described in terms of diverge-converge cycles. The diverge step involves experimentation and rewards suspending disbelief, while excesses are curbed and concepts refined during the converge step. Richard Brath's just-released book Visualizing with Text is an important resource that expands our appreciation for the place of text in visual displays. Books on data visualization fall into recognizable types, of which two popular ones are the style...

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An exposed seam in the crystal ball of coronavirus recovery

One of the questions being asked by the business community is when the economy will recover and how. The Conference Board has offered their outlook in this new article. (This link takes you to the collection of Covid-19 related graphics. You have to find the right one from the carousel. I can't seem to find the direct link to that page.) This chart summarizes their viewpoint: They considered three scenarios,...

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Pulling the multi-national story out, step by step

Reader Aleksander B. found this Economist chart difficult to understand. Given the chart title, the reader is looking for a story about multinationals producing lower return on equity than local firms. The first item displayed indicates that multinationals out-performed local firms in the technology sector. The pie charts on the right column provide additional information about the share of each sector by the type of firms. Is there a correlation...

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Re-thinking a standard business chart of stock purchases and sales

Here is a typical business chart. A possible story here: institutional investors are generally buying AMD stock, except in Q3 2018. Let's give this chart a three-step treatment. STEP 1: The Basics Remove the data labels, which stand sideways awkwardly, and are redundant given the axis labels. If the audience includes people who want to take the underlying data, then supply a separate data table. It's easier to copy and...

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Re-thinking a standard business chart of stock purchases and sales

Here is a typical business chart. A possible story here: institutional investors are generally buying AMD stock, except in Q3 2018. Let's give this chart a three-step treatment. STEP 1: The Basics Remove the data labels, which stand sideways awkwardly, and are redundant given the axis labels. If the audience includes people who want to take the underlying data, then supply a separate data table. It's easier to copy and...

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Watching a valiant effort to rescue the pie chart

Today we return to the basics. In a twitter exchange with Dean E., I found the following pie chart in an Atlantic article about who's buying San Francisco real estate: The pie chart is great at one thing, showing how workers in the software industry accounted for half of the real estate purchases. (Dean and I both want to see more details of the analysis as we have many questions...

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