Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Why graphics get a bad rap

Can you figure out what this chart is trying to say? I have a hard time of it:

Here is the data laid out in a more compelling manner:

I can easily see the data correlations.
Central region, the first line, earned the most revenue, increased the most over last year and earned better than forecast.
Eastern earned the second highest but lost the most over last year and earned under forecast.
My ideas for the new layout came from Lars Schubert
Lars' excel spread sheet with data and variations


  1. Hi Kyle,
    This is a good article. I heard someone recently say that a golden rule for line graphs is that they only work over time periods, and the first graphic you've shown illustrates why that is.
    I like the alternative graphic that you've got. My only quibble would be with your "compared to", are the figures you're citing %ages or actuals? I'm presuming actuals, but %age is so often used in comparisons that it is ambiguous to not state it, IMHO.

    cheers, Robin.

  2. THanks for the comments. After your comment I changed the graphic and put a footnote on the units.
    Hadn't heard that line charts should only be for time lines, but it's an interesting idea.
    Not sure I'm pro or con on %. I tend to want the units myself, but many prefer the %s. For example %CPU usage on a machine seems to be well accepted as a measurement but when it comes to run queue I find a lot people don't get it as quickly as I would have thought.