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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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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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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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Visualizing change over time: case study via Arstechnica

ArsTechnica published the following chart in its article titled "Grim new analyses spotlight just how hard the U.S. is failing in  pandemic" (link). There are some very good things about this chart, so let me start there. In a Trifecta Checkup, I'd give the Q corner high marks. The question is clear: how has the U.S. performed relative to other countries? In particular, the chart gives a nuanced answer to...

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Election visuals 4: the snake pit is the best election graphic ever

This is the final post on the series of data visualization deployed by FiveThirtyEight to explain their election forecasting model. The previous posts are here, here and here. I'm saving the best for last. This snake-pit chart brings me great joy - I wish I came up with it! This chart wins by focusing on a limited set of questions, and doing so excellently. As with many election observers, we...

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Putting vaccine trials in boxes

Bloomberg Businessweek has a special edition about vaccines, and I found this chart on the print edition: The chart's got a lot of white space. Its structure is a series of simple "treemaps," one for each type of vaccine. Though simple, such a chart burns a few brain cells. Here, I've extracted the largest block, which corresponds to vaccines that work with the virus's RNA/DNA. I applied a self-sufficiency test,...

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Deaths as percent neither of cases nor of population. Deaths as percent of normal.

Yesterday, I posted a note about excess deaths on the book blog (link). The post was inspired by a nice data visualization by the New York Times (link). This is a great example of data journalism. Excess deaths is a superior metric for measuring the effect of Covid-19 on public health. It's better than deaths as percent of cases. Also better than percent of the population.What excess deaths measure is...

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Reduced mail sorting capacity

The United States Postal Service is losing mail sorting machines — as an election during a pandemic gets closer. The Washington Post reports on what they know so far, including the map above on reduced sorting capacity. Tags: election, sorting, USPS, Washington Post

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Ask how you can give

A reader and colleague was frustrated with the following graphic that appeared in the otherwise commendable article in National Geographic (link). The NatGeo article provides a history lesson on past pandemics that killed millions. What does the design want to convey to readers? Our attention is drawn to the larger objects, the red triangle on the left or the green triangle on the right. Regarding the red triangle, we learn...

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Hope and reality in one Georgia chart

Over the weekend, Georgia's State Health Department agitated a lot of people when it published the following chart: (This might have appeared a week ago as the last date on the chart is May 9 and the title refers to "past 15 days".) They could have avoided the embarrassment if they had read my article at DataJournalism.com (link). In that article, I lay out a set of the "unspoken conventions,"...

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