Ugly ugly ugly

January 20, 2013

(This article was originally published at Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science, and syndicated at StatsBlogs.)

Denis Cote sends the following, under the heading, “Some bad graphs for your enjoyment”:

Screen Shot 2012-12-20 at 2.13.43 PM

To start with, they don’t know how to spell “color.” Seriously, though, the graph is a mess. The circular display implies a circular or periodic structure that isn’t actually in the data, the cramped display requires the use of an otherwise-unnecessary color code that makes it difficult to find or make sense of the information, the alphabetical ordering (without even supplying state names, only abbreviations) makes it further difficult to find any patterns. It would be so much better, and even easier, to just display a set of small maps shading states on whether they have different laws. But that’s part of the problem—the clearer graph would also be easier to make! To get a distinctive graph, there needs to be some degree of difficulty.

The designers continue with these monstrosities:

Screen Shot 2012-12-20 at 2.18.43 PM

Here they decide to display only 5 states at a time so that it’s really hard to see any big picture, also they have these odd graphs that look like pie charts but are not, and again we see an unnecessary circular display that makes it harder to label the wedges, requiring the reader to go back and forth to a color legend to follow it.

What do I conclude from all this? Circles are pretty. Designers (and, I assume, newspaper readers) like circles, they’re so pretty and symmetric.

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