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Good Visualization

Source: Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/dannyman/2702170145/


This map is displayed opposite the tracks and indicates which way the train on those tracks is going as well as the possible destinations. This kind of visualization is used in other major cities and I'm glad it's finally come to the bay area. At a glance, it shows you all upcoming stops, MUNI connection information, visitor information centers, and airport locations. It also clearly shows (in gray) which stops you cannot get to with this train.


This visualization uses primarily color and position to indicate the various lines and stops on the BART system. Color is used consistently to indicate the different lines. This color information is collapsed into a gray line for stations travelers cannot reach from this side of the platform.

The position of the lines is chosen for readability, not to give the reader a geographic layout of the BART system. This choice is appropriate, however, because this map appears across the tracks, once travelers already know where they are going. Additional markers indicate the location of information centers, airports, and MUNI transfer stations. In truth, very little information is displayed here.

Essentially, only the relative order of the stops on each line are indicated. However, this visualization is extremely useful for its intended purpose: to increase traveler confidence when they simply want to make sure that they are on the right side of the platform.

Bad Visualization

Source: National Geographic


When I first saw this visualization, I thought I this could be the one to use for the "good visualization" example. At first glance, it seemed like the curved lines were indicating student movement. But they're not. In fact, the curved lines mean nothing at all. They're merely a way of breaking down continents into individual countries, something that could be done more clearly with a simple bar graph. Below, the graph of US students doing education abroad is just another curved bar graph below the larger one. It certainly makes the point that US students don't do education abroad as much, but the comparison is weak because it seems secondary to what's going on in each individual graph.

Please excuse the dollar signs. I haven't yet registered my scanning software and it insists on putting these watermarks in the scans until I do.


This visualization consists of two graphs: one of students from other countries studying in the United States, and the other of American students studying abroad.

The primary information-carrying visual element in this graph is the width of the bars - indicating the number of students studying abroad from a particular country. The bars are grouped by continent and colored in alternating shades on that continent's color. Labels are used to give precise values to the bars. The totals of each are also indicated.

Redesign Image:ljuba-1b.png

The redesigned visualization accurately conveys the number of international and US students studying abroad. It removes the "lie factor" in the original visualization by making the width of each bar constant while varying the height. Colors are used consistently to represent each continent, since they are nominative data. Like the original, alternative shades of each continents color are used to distinguish countries within a continent.

The text describing the main point of the graph has been separated into two parts, and placed to emphasize the message of each part of the visualization. Also, continent names appear in ALL CAPS, while country names appear in Title Case.

Finally, a very light shade of gray was added to the "American H.S. Students Abroad" section to distinguish it from the breakdown of continents by country in the right part of the visualization.

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