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Statistics and liars

Stacks and groups

HuexpensessmThis stacked, grouped bar chart is a mess!  There isn't much right about it: the colors are blinding, the group labels are taxing, the grouping is obscure, the scale should have been in millions, and neither axes have labels.

Stacked bars, sometimes used in place of pie charts, are not much of an improvement.  For example, it is difficult to read from this chart the operating expenses for the medical school because it is at not the bottom of the stack.

RedoharvardBy simplifying, the junkart version manages to gain clarity.  The colors are not necessary but I include them to provide reference to the original chart.  Apparently, the author saw it fit to cluster the departments into three groups, namely the 4 largest faculties (blue), all other academic departments (green), and non-academic departments (orange).  On this chart, one can easily see that the Medical School spent close to $500 million in 2004.

Reference: Harvard Magazine, May-June 2006, p. 75.


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I like the original version better. The colors are fine, and it does a good job of getting the main point across, which is the size of the three groups.

Matt M

Gag…the original graph does a terrible job at conveying the information. Maybe you like it because it "looks pretty," but when it comes to conveying the data, it's terrible. The much improved junkart version conveys all the data accurately as well as emphasizing easily showing the absolute and relative sizes of each school.


I'd also add that the original chart used 14 shades of color on exactly 14 data points. The grouping of departments is also arbitrary.


I found myself refusing to even TRY to make sense of the original.
It would make for some groovy wallpaper, though.

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