Trifecta checkup

4 posts
When the visual runs away from the data

The pressure of the coronavirus news cycle has gotten the better of some graphics designers. Via Twitter, Mark B sent me the following chart: I applied the self-sufficiency test to this pie chart. That's why you can't see the data which were also printed on the chart. The idea of self-sufficiency is to test how much work the visual elements of the graphic are doing to convey its message. Look...

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The epidemic of simple comparisons

Another day, another Twitter user sent a sloppy chart featured on TV news. This CNN graphic comes from Hugo K. by way of Kevin T. And it's another opportunity to apply the self-sufficiency test. Like before, I removed the data printed on the graphic. In reading this chart, we like to know the number of U.S. reported cases of coronavirus relative to China, and Italy relative to the U.S. So,...

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Bad data leave chart hanging by the thread

IGNITE National put out a press release saying that Gen Z white men are different from all other race-gender groups because they are more likely to be or lean Republican. The evidence is in this chart: Or is it? Following our Trifecta Checkup framework (link), let's first look at the data. White men is the bottom left group. Democratic = 42%, Independent = 28%, Republican = 48%. That's a total...

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Gazing at petals

Reader Murphy pointed me to the following infographic developed by Altmetric to explain their analytics of citations of journal papers. These metrics are alternative in that they arise from non-academic media sources, such as news outlets, blogs, twitter, and reddit. The key graphic is the petal diagram with a number in the middle. I have a hard time thinking of this object as “data visualization”. Data visualization should visualize the...

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Bubble charts, ratios and proportionality

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal about a challenger to the dominant weedkiller, Roundup, contains a nice selection of graphics. (Dicamba is the up-and-comer.) The change in usage of three brands of weedkillers is rendered as a small-multiples of choropleth maps. This graphic displays geographical and time changes simultaneously. The staircase chart shows weeds have become resistant to Roundup over time. This is considered a weakness in 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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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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Marketers want millennials to know they’re millennials

When I posted about the lack of a standard definition of "millennials", Dean Eckles tweeted about the arbitrary division of age into generational categories. His view is further reinforced by the following chart, courtesy of PewResearch by way of MarketingCharts.com. Pew asked people what generation they belong to. The amount of people who fail to place themselves in the right category is remarkable. One way to interpret this finding is...

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The rule governing which variable to put on which axis, served a la mode

When making a scatter plot, the two variables should not be placed arbitrarily. There is a rule governing this: the outcome variable should be shown on the vertical axis (also called y-axis), and the explanatory variable on the horizontal (or x-) axis. This chart from the archives of the Economist has this reversed: The title of the accompanying article is "Ice Cream and IQ"... In a Trifecta Checkup (link), it's...

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