From CS 294-10 Visualization Sp10

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Good Visualization


Source: The Economist, January 16th-23rd

This visualization presents deleveraging data in such a way that simple conclusions can be formed even by someone who is unfamiliar with the topic. The use of green/orange/red to indicate low/moderate/high risk is emotionally intuitive to most readers. The countries are also organized roughly by risk factor, with the riskiest countries at the top.

Bad Visualization


Source: The Atlantic, January/February 2010

I apologize if the text is hard to read; the caption at the top says "Opening Acts: Obama's approval ratings over his first year, in historical context".

The visualization is poor for a number of reasons. Because of the format, general trends for the ratings for a given president are hard to read. Because the aspect ratio is so bad, all of the graph lines look roughly fat. The viewer's eyes have to travel a large distance (from the left end of the left page to the right end of the right page) to merely tell if the president had a net increase or decrease. Different colors are used for each president, which is unnecessary given that each data set has its own axes. The designer could've used colors much more effectively: red/blue for each line to differentiate between Democrats and Republicans, intensities of red/black at each point to indicate net loss or gain at any point, or color coding the historical notes by category (defense, economy, legislation, etc.) would all be better uses. Finally, the bottom row contains no numerical data, instead merely posting historical notes without suggesting how they impacted the president's (in this case, FDR's) popularity.

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