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Good Example


Source: Scientific American, August 2008

This visualisation explains the functioning of home heating pumps that can heat or cool down the house according to the seasonal needs.

I think that this is an example of a good visualisation. The reader sees how the pump functions in summer for heating compared to winter for heating ("Show data variation, not design variation").

The temperature of the refrigerant is indicated by color (in an expected way: blue for cold, red for warm), the flow direction of the refrigerant is indicated by arrows as well as numbering. This gives the reader and easy understanding of how the pump works and how/where it heats/cools the house. For the interested reader, the visualistion provides additional information by labeling the single parts of the pump which is not crucial for understanding. Although the illustration is self-explanatory, more information is available by reading the short paragraphs next to it.

Bad Example


Source: Scientific American, June 2008

This Illustration is supposed to show that only members of the same species can mate with each other but not with members of different species. However there are some exceptions where members of different species that diverged over three millions of years ago can still mate with each other. What makes this a bad visualization in my eyes is that with just looking at the illustration and without reading the text, the reader cannot understand the illustration. The display on the right side of two different apes does not suggest at all that members of those two species are able to mate.

Kerstin Keller 09:06, 27 January 2010 (UTC)

Another Bad Example

I have stumbled upon another bad example which I would like to share.


Source: Discover, November 2008

This visualisation displays the age of earth's rock. What makes this visualisation so bad, is that by looking at the graphic the user has no idea which part of the earths rock is older/younger. Whenever I recognized a color, I had to look down at the table to look what age that color represents.

The designer used color to encode ordinal data, which (like we discussed) in class is not very smart. What makes it even worse, is that the colors follows no reasonalble ordering that users are familiar with.

Using grayscale for encoding the age of the rocks would have improved the visualisation a lot.

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