Uh um
On the popularity of bar charts

Dizzying dots

One of Tufte's many contributions is the concept of "data-ink ratio": how much of the ink used to print a chart is used to show the data as opposed to, say, decoration?

This example, showing the quintile ranking of utility funds, has a very low data-ink ratio.  The dots serve only one purpose, to make the reader dizzy.  The data stands out once the dots are banished, as shown below. 

Reference: "Lipper Leaders", Wall Street Journal (free this week), Nov 7 2005.


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I'm a bit dizzy after looking at the JunkChart version! My eye drifts back and forth across the columns without the dots to keep me aligned.

Why not just center the numbers under each heading? The spatial relationship seems redundant (and distracting) when a numerical ranking is provided. No?


Groupie, the spatial displacement is indeed redundant. But then, once the numbers are aligned, it takes a bit more time to identify the 4s from the 1s.

Based on your feedback, I'd now prefer a version using 1 dot for "1" and 4 dots for "4", with the dots all starting from the left side. Better still, I'd reverse the scale so that 4 dots indicate a better investment than 1 dot.

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