Tuesday, 17 February 2009

How would you improve this chart? (Marketing relevant if you're a marketer who draws charts)

The excellent Flowing Data ran a competition at the end of last year, asking entrants to see if they could 'make a better chart using the same data source.'

This original isn't that bad, which made the challenge interesting. It's not brilliant, but as a summary of US immigration over time, it does the job.

The winner of the contest reflected the fact that the original was ok, swapping lines for stacked areas, adding commentary and building a much more visually attractive chart.

No arguments at all from me that this was the best entry (have a look for yourself).

What's interesting, is the number of entries that seem to have taken 'make a better chart' to mean 'make a different chart'.

Logarithmic scales? Seriously? Interactive flash charts are clever, but they're not really communicating more information. A large number of the entries turned a simple chart into something that took longer to understand, but didn't add anything extra once you had worked them out.

In marketing, analysts have a responsibility to communicate information as simply and as clearly as possible. Sometimes to people who hoped they'd left graphs behind when they dropped maths at college ten years ago. In data presentation, 'better' doesn't mean 'different' and 'different' definitely shouldn't be more complicated.

I still can't believe there were log scales. Two of them!

No I didn't enter the contest, but will have a go in future and please feel free to pull my entry to bits (if it gets printed!) Flowing Data's winning chart is superb. Easy to understand and rewards a deeper look.

No comments: