Monday, March 9, 2009

Good chart x Bad Chart

Often I've criticized bad graphs, showing flaws, bad choices and mistakes along the way. Well, if creating a bad graph is easy, criticizing one is even easier, therefore, this post will show you a good graph, with the correct choices made in most places versus a bad one.
The good guy:

This graph was posted by the New York Times. Great choice of colors, nice labels and standard metrics. Very easy to understand. Not much to say really. The author didn't take that many chances, but the result was very straight-forward, which is good for the reader.

The bad guy:

Ok, now this guy has definitely taken a lot more chances than our hero. For absolutely no reason other then aesthetics, our villain decided not only to use a 3D presentation, but a curved presentation of the pillars. This decision, though very interesting and eye-catching, makes it rather difficult to compare correspondent values, creating a visual problem to understand the data. Plus, the curvature at the top of the image doesn't match the one at the bottom, which makes it even harder to read. The triple factor: the bar tops are not flat, but they have a curvature as well. Does that mean changes during that respective year's months? I think not. So what should we consider, top or bottom parts of the cut?

So you see what I mean, aesthetics is a very important part of making your graph successful and getting the information across, but it should never come at the expense of the objective, which is always to get the information as fast AND as correct as possible to the reader.

Let me know what you think!


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