Trifecta checkup

158 posts
The what of visualization, beyond the how

A long-time reader sent me the following chart from a Nature article, pointing out that it is rather worthless. The simple bar chart plots the number of downloads, organized by country, from the website called Sci-Hub, which I've just learned is where one can download scientific articles for free - working around the exorbitant paywalls of scientific journals. The bar chart is a good example of a Type D chart...

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Easy breezy bar charts, perhaps

I came across the following bar chart (link), which presents the results of a survey of CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers) on their attitudes toward data analytics. Responses are tabulated to the question about the most significant hurdle(s) against the increasing use of data and analytics for marketing. Eleven answers were presented, in addition to the catchall "Other" response. I'm unable to divine the rule used by the designer to sequence...

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Type D charts

A twitter follower sent the following chart: It's odd to place the focus on China when the U.S. line is much higher, and the growth in spending in the last few years in the U.S. is much higher than the growth rate in China. In the Trifecta Checkup, this chart is Type D (link): the data are at odds with the message of the chart. The intended message likely is...

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Visual design is hard, brought to you by NYC subway

This poster showed up in a NY subway train recently. Visual design is hard! What is the message? The intention is, of course, to say Rootine is better than others. (That's the Q corner, if you're following the Trifecta Checkup.) What is the visual telling us (V corner)? It says Rootine is yellow while Others are purple. What do these color mean? There is no legend to help decipher it....

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How does the U.K. vote in the U.N.?

Through my twitter feed, I found my way to this chart, made by jamie_bio. This is produced using R code even though it looks like a slide. The underlying dataset concerns votes at the United Nations on various topics. Someone has already classified these topics. Jamie looked at voting blocs, specifically, countries whose votes agree most often or least often with the U.K. If you look at his Github, this...

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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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One of the most frequently produced maps is also one of the worst

Summer is here, many Americans are putting the pandemic in their rear-view mirrors, and gas prices are soaring. Business Insider told the story using this map: What do we want to learn about gas prices this summer? Which region has the highest / lowest prices? How much higher / lower than the national average are the regional prices? How much has prices risen, compared to last year, or compared to...

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Start at zero improves this chart but only slightly

The following chart was forwarded to me recently: It's a good illustration of why the "start at zero" rule exists for column charts. The poor Indian lady looks like a midget in this women's club. Is the average Indian woman really half as tall as the average South African woman? (Surely not!) The problem is only superficially fixed by starting the vertical axis at zero. Doing so highlights the fact...

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Finding the hidden information behind nice-looking charts

This chart from Business Insider caught my attention recently. (link) There are various things they did which I like. The use of color to draw a distinction between the top 3 lines and the line at the bottom - which tells the story that the bottom 50% has been left far behind. Lines being labelled directly is another nice touch. I usually like legends that sit atop the chart; in...

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