Medicine

29 posts
The gift of small edits and subtraction

While making the chart on fertility rates (link), I came across a problem that pops up quite often, and is  ignored by most software programs. Here is an earlier version of the chart I later discarded: Compare this to the version I published in the blog post: Aside from adding the chart title, there is one major change. I removed the empty plots from the grid. This is a visualization...

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Working hard at clarity

As I am preparing another blog post about the pandemic, I came across the following data graphic, recently produced by the CDC for a vaccine advisory board meeting: This is not an example of effective visual communications. *** For one thing, readers are directed to scour the footnotes to figure out what's going on. If we ignore those for the moment, we see clusters of bubbles that have remained pretty...

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Simple charts are the hardest to do right

The CDC website has a variety of data graphics about many topics, one of which is U.S. vaccinations. I was looking for information about Covid-19 data broken down by age groups, and that's when I landed on these charts (link). The left panel shows people with at least one dose, and the right panel shows those who are "fully vaccinated." This simple chart takes an unreasonable amount of time to...

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What metaphors give, they take away

Aleks pointed me to the following graphic making the rounds on Twitter: It's being passed around as an example of great dataviz. The entire attraction rests on a risque metaphor. The designer is illustrating a claim that Covid-19 causes erectile dysfunction in men. That's a well-formed question so in using the Trifecta Checkup, that's a pass on the Q corner. What about the visual metaphor? I advise people to think...

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Ranking data provide context but can also confuse

This dataviz from the Economist had me spending a lot of time clicking around - which means it is a success. The graphic presents four measures of wellbeing in society - life expectancy, infant mortality rate, murder rate and prison population. The primary goal is to compare nations across those metrics. The focus is on comparing how certain nations (or subgroups) rank against each other, as indicated by the relative...

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Hanging things on your charts

The Financial Times published the following chart that shows the rollout of vaccines in the U.K. (I can't find the online link to the article. The article is titled "AstraZeneca and Oxford face setbacks and success as battle enters next phase", May 29/30 2021.) This chart form is known as a "streamgraph", and it is a stacked area chart in disguise.  The same trick can be applied to a column...

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Probabilities and proportions: which one is the chart showing

The New York Times showed this chart (link): My first read: oh my gosh, 40-50% of the unvaccinated Americans are living their normal lives - dining at restaurants, assembling with more than 10 people, going to religious gatherings. After reading the text around this chart, I realize I have misinterpreted it. The chart should be read by columns. Each column is a "pie chart". For example, the first column shows...

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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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Same data + same chart form  = same story. Maybe.

We love charts that tell stories. Some people believe that if they situate the data in the right chart form, the stories reveal themselves. Some people believe for a given dataset, there exists a best chart form that brings out the story. An implication of these beliefs is that the story is immutable, given the dataset and the chart form. If you use the Trifecta Checkup, you already know I...

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Making graphics last over time

Yesterday, I analyzed the data visualization by the White House showing the progress of U.S. Covid-19 vaccinations. Here is the chart. John who tweeted this at me, saying "please get a better data viz". I'm happy to work with them or the CDC on better dataviz. Here's an example of what I do. Obviously, I'm using made-up data here and this is a sketch. I want to design a chart...

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