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Archive for the ‘FAIL’ Category

Reality Inverted

Reuters graph implies the opposite of what’s really happening

Graphics — especially simple graphics— should take into account reader’s expectations, not require careful study to correctly interpret their meaning. This Reuters graph inverts the vertical axis, creating the impression that deaths went down when in fact deaths went up. This graph runs counter to a well established convention that y-values increase from the bottom to the top of a graph. Breaking convention produces a graph that seriously misleads. A redrawn version of the graph instantly delivers the correct impression.

florida gun deaths    florida gun deaths-2

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Overstacking Bars

Mint goes too far with a stacked column chart

Mint-IncomeDistributionStackBar

This stacked column chart is certainly pretty, but falls down on usability. It does not make it easy to compare income levels across states. Reading across the bottom it works for the lowest income group and reading across the top it works for the highest. For the five groups in between it does not work at all because there is no common point of reference. It is very difficult to compare an inner bar to any other inner bar.

This infographic would be less pretty, but far more useful if each group was displayed in its own row with a common zero line. Then the eye could easily scan across to spot the highs and lows.

The lesson is that a stacked column or bar chart can be useful at times, but only when a small number of comparisons are made or when the differences among the bars is very evident. Otherwise, don’t do it!

Pie Chart Phobia?

GoodReader Avoids Pie, But Does This Serve the Reader?

This overly elaborate infographic presents the same information as a classic pie chart or even a table. Does it do it better? I think not.

Badbook

It could be that the publication thinks a classic pie or table does not match the image they want to present. Unfortunately, this chaotic presentation makes it much harder for the reader to make sense of the information.

Either a pie or a table sorted by percentage would quickly communicate the top reasons for quitting. This presentation leaves the reader hunting for key information. Why this jumbled spatial arrangement?

The leading factor is labeled in slightly larger type and bolded, but the significance is lost in a sea of bad typography. No typographic hierarchy is maintained in the rest of the labels. Why so many crummy fonts?

Say, what makes you stop reading an infographic?

Designers Outraged at US Gov Spys

PRISM PowerPoints Not So Hot

The revelation that the U.S. Government is spying on the Internet outraged pundits, politicians and rights advocates. After the Washington Post published the slides the design community was outraged too. I think the information content of the slides is actually not so terrible. The problem is the hideously ugly artwork. The design skills of whoever created these slides is appallingly low. Poor presentation detracts from the message so much that it slows comprehension. This is a great illustration of why design skill is an important part of effective communication.

 

Dreadful spy-PRISM deck sets new record for most header logos — Edward Tufte

 

prism-slide-5

 

 

Quarters Don’t Compare

Calendar quarters are not really comparable

Fortune’s CNN Money takes a closer look at Mac sales and discovers that what appears to be a decline is actually the opposite  Wall Street forecasters are projecting a quarter-on-quarter decline in Mac sales for Q1 2013. This looks bad for Apple, but a closer look reveals that it really isn’t so.

MacUnitSalesByQuarters

Taking these numbers at face value does not take into account that Q1 last year had 14 weeks, not the usual 13. Adjusting for the number of weeks in the quarter produces a increase in sales from 5 to 10 percent — a big difference in conclusion.

So when comparing quarters, be sure that you are comparing apples to apples.

Failure to Visually Communicate

November 27, 2012 1 comment

IBM proves that visual communication requires skill

The headline was clever:

“Is It Time To Conclude That Android Gadgets Are Bought By People Who Don’t Actually Do Anything With Them?”

Unfortunately, the accompanying graphic combined a pie chart, three bar charts, various oddly drawn lines, and numerous poorly positioned labels into one confusing mess. Inconsistent coloring suggested relationships that did not exist. Some label pairs were stacked so closely that they looked like single labels whose text made no sense — just a bit of vertical separation between “Mobile” and “Fixed” and between “Tablet” and “Phone” would have helped a lot. So sad to have such an interesting dataset so totally obscured by horrid design. It could have been great.

Consistency is Essential

Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism produces a less than excellent graph

Readers are often in a hurry and they appreciate the use of graphics to communicate quickly. Graphic artists must be careful to not mislead a reader who does not have the time to carefully scrutinize and interpret a simple graph. The problem with this pie chart is that a quick glance creates the impression that the Kindle Fire has a market share of 21%. A more careful inspection reveals that the correct value is about 10%.

Most readers will assume that all the callouts in a single pie chart will refer to the whole pie (100%). In this pie chart the 21% callout refers to the 48% slice. This misleads the reader. Don’t do this!