Simplicity

123 posts
When the pie chart is more complex than the data

The trading house, Charles Schwab, included the following graphic in a recent article: This graphic is more complicated than the story that it illustrates. The author describes a simple scenario in which an investor divides his investments into stocks, bonds and cash. After a stock crash, the value of the portfolio declines. The graphic is a 3-D pie chart, in which the data are encoded twice, first in the areas...

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Designs of two variables: map, dot plot, line chart, table

The New York Times found evidence that the richest segments of New Yorkers, presumably those with second or multiple homes, have exited the Big Apple during the early months of the pandemic. The article (link) is amply assisted by a variety of data graphics. The first few charts represent different attempts to express the headline message. Their appearance in the same article allows us to assess the relative merits of...

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Graph literacy, in a sense

Ben Jones tweeted out this chart, which has an unusual feature: What's unusual is that time runs in both directions. Usually, the rule is that time runs left to right (except, of course, in right-to-left cultures). Here, the purple area chart follows that convention while the yellow area chart inverts it. On the one hand, this is quite cute. Lines meeting in the middle. Converging. I get it. On the...

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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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Clearing a forest of labels

This chart by the Financial Times has a strong message, and I like a lot about it: The countries are by and large aligned along a diagonal, with the poorer countries growing strongly between 2007-2019 while the richer countries suffered negative growth. A small issue with the chart is the thick forest of text - redundant text. The sub-title, the axis titles, the quadrant labels, and the left-right-half labels all...

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Clearing a forest of labels

This chart by the Financial Times has a strong message, and I like a lot about it: The countries are by and large aligned along a diagonal, with the poorer countries growing strongly between 2007-2019 while the richer countries suffered negative growth. A small issue with the chart is the thick forest of text - redundant text. The sub-title, the axis titles, the quadrant labels, and the left-right-half labels all...

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Seeking simplicity in complex data: Bloomberg’s dataviz on UK gender pay gap

Bloomberg featured a thought-provoking dataviz that illustrates the pay gap by gender in the U.K. The dataset underlying this effort is complex, and the designers did a good job simplifying the data for ease of comprehension. U.K. companies are required to submit data on salaries and bonuses by gender, and by pay quartiles. The dataset is incomplete, since some companies are slow to report, and the analyst decided not to...

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An exercise in decluttering

My friend Xan found the following chart by Pew hard to understand. Why is the chart so taxing to look at?  It's packing too much. I first notice the shaded areas. Shading usually signifies "look here". On this chart, the shading is highlighting the least important part of the data. Since the top line shows applicants and the bottom line admitted students, the shaded gap displays the rejections. The numbers...

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The Economist on the Economist: must read now

A visual data journalist at the Economist takes a critical eye on charts published by the Economist (link). This is a must read! (Hat tip: Fernando) Here are some of my commentary on past Economist charts.

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NYT hits the trifecta with this market correction chart

Yesterday, in the front page of the Business section, the New York Times published a pair of charts that perfectly captures the story of the ongoing turbulence in the stock market. Here is the first chart: Most market observers are very concerned about the S&P entering "correction" territory, which the industry arbitrarily defines as a drop of 10% or more from a peak. This corresponds to the shortest line on...

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