A superb effort by the Wall Street Journal.
This chart tells us corporations are hoarding cash, and the level of stashing varies by industry.
In the print version, the trajectory is printed in faded white within the larger plot.
Both online and in print, the designers were thinking about foreground / background.
Most impressive is the highly successful attempt to simplify the data, or equivalently, to elevate the trend: each trajectory is represented by three points, with straight lines drawn between those points. The points chosen were a decade apart so the lines represented straight-line growth/decline within a decade.
Can three points truly represent the 20-year trajectory? You bet. Clicking on each of the industry charts, I found that the only one industry for which the three points did not adequately capture what happened was the Energy industry.
The three-point summary obscured the increase in the cash stockpile for Energy companies in the early 2000s which peaked in 2004. Simplifying anything runs the risk of misrepresenting specific elements; however, a simplified message is much, much more likely to affect readers than inundating readers with too much data.
I do have reservations about the use of color and the legend. The industry names could be printed at the bottom of each chart and it would be clearer. For such a well-designed chart, color is not necessary either.
Reference: "Jittery companies stash cash", Wall Street Journal, Nov 3 2009.