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46 posts
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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All these charts lament the high prices charged by U.S. hospitals

A former student asked me about this chart from the New York Times that highlights much higher prices of hospital procedures in the U.S. relative to a comparison group of seven countries. The dot plot is clearly thought through. It is not a default chart that pops out of software. Based on its design, we surmise that the designer has the following intentions: The names of the medical procedures are...

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Analysis of online sermons

Pew Research Center analyzed online sermons in U.S. searches, taking a closer look at what people typically hear across religions: For instance, the distinctive words (or sequences of words) that often appear in sermons delivered at historically black Protestant congregations include “powerful hand” and “hallelujah … come.” The latter phrase (which appears online in actual sentences such as “Hallelujah! Come on … let your praises loose!”) appeared in some form...

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Conceptualizing a chart using Trifecta: a practical example

In response to the reader who left a comment asking for ideas for improving the "marginal abatements chart" that was discussed here, I thought it might be helpful to lay out the process I go through when conceptualizing a chart. (Just a reminder, here is the chart we're dealing with.) First, I'm very concerned about the long program names. I see their proper placement in a horizontal orientation as a...

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How to read this cost-benefit chart, and why it is so confusing

Long-time reader Antonio R. found today's chart hard to follow, and he isn't alone. It took two of us multiple emails and some Web searching before we think we "got it".   Antonio first encountered the chart in a book review (link) of Hal Harvey et. al, Designing Climate Solutions. It addresses the general topic of costs and benefits of various programs to abate CO2 emissions. The reviewer praised the...

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Who is a millennial? An example of handling uncertainty

I found this fascinating chart from CNBC, which attempts to nail down the definition of a millennial. It turns out everyone defines "millennials" differently. They found 23 different definitions. Some media outlets apply different definitions in different items. I appreciate this effort a lot. The design is thoughtful. In making this chart, the designer added the following guides: The text draws attention to the definition with the shortest range of...

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Tennis greats at the top of their game

The following chart of world No. 1 tennis players looks pretty but the payoff of spending time to understand it isn't high enough. The light colors against the tennis net backdrop don't work as intended. The annotation is well done, and it's always neat to tug a legend inside the text. The original is found at Tableau Public (link). The topic of the analysis appears to be the ages at...

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This Wimbledon beauty will be ageless

This Financial Times chart paints the picture of the emerging trend in Wimbledon men’s tennis: the average age of players has been rising, and hits 30 years old for the first time ever in 2019. The chart works brilliantly. Let's look at the design decisions that contributed to its success. The chart contains a good amount of data and the presentation is carefully layered, with the layers nicely tied to...

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Too much of a good thing

Several of us discussed this data visualization over twitter last week. The dataviz by Aero Data Lab is called “A Bird’s Eye View of Pharmaceutical Research and Development”. There is a separate discussion on STAT News. Here is the top section of the chart: We faced a number of hurdles in understanding this chart as there is so much going on. The size of the shapes is perhaps the first...

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What is a bad chart?

In the recent issue of Madolyn Smith’s Conversations with Data newsletter hosted by DataJournalism.com, she discusses “bad charts,” featuring submissions from several dataviz bloggers, including myself. What is a “bad chart”? Based on this collection of curated "bad charts", it is not easy to nail down “bad-ness”. The common theme is the mismatch between the message intended by the designer and the message received by the reader, a classic error...

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