why I disdain most infographics

Too many offenses to sensible data visualization to list. It's unfortunate, too, because there are some compelling stats lost in the cartoony graphics.

Gates Foundation Inventions

Source: MPHOnline.org

just because you have numbers doesn't mean you need a graph

I subscribe to updates from the Pew Research Center. They arrive in my inbox with subject lines like "Future of Internet, News Engagement, God and Morality" (yes, this was an actual title from their March 13th update - quite a span of topics!) and probably 90% of the time get moved to my trash without a second thought. But in a fraction of cases, something in that subject line catches my eye and I open the email to read more. Sometimes, this even prompts me to click further to the full article.

The snippet that caught my attention this time was "Stay-at-Home Mothers on the Rise." The link I clicked on within my email brings you here.

A quick scan through and I found that I was hardly able to focus on the article because of the issues plaguing the visuals that accompany it. There are many. But I'll focus on just a single one today and keep this rant very short and sweet:

Just because you have numbers doesn't mean you need a graph!

The following graph prompted this adage:

That's a whole lot of text and space for a grand total of two numbers. The graph does nothing to aid in the interpretation of numbers here! Even the fact that 20 is less than half of 41 doesn't really come across clearly here visually (perhaps because of the way the numbers are place above the bars?).

Rather, the above can be conveyed in a single sentence: 20% of children had a "traditional" stay-at-home mom in 2012 (compared to 41% in 1970). 

Just because you have numbers doesn't mean you need a graph!

For a less ranting delivery of a similar lesson, check out my post the power of simple text.

US prison population revisualized

This visual breaks pretty much every best practice out there when it comes to effective graph design. Check out this post, where I comment on the design choices and demonstrate what this data has the potential to be.

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bar charts must have a zero baseline

This is one rule of data visualization that I see broken too often: when it comes to bar charts, the y-axis must begin at zero. Check out this post, where we'll look at a specific example and discuss why.

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color me bad(ly)

In this post, I outline the shortcomings of these colorful donuts and look at another way to visualize this data.

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evaluating word clouds

Word clouds created a bit of buzz when they first became popular. However, I often find that upon further evaluation they tend to be a letdown—full of fluff without so much informative value. Check out this post for my discussion on why and a word cloud makeover.

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