Higher, higher and higher
Arming the competition

Graphical equity 3

Zuil provides an alternative rendering of the Sankey diagram / flow chart.  This one is surely superior, being easier to understand while capturing more information than the previous example.

Govt_sankey2_1Ultimately, however, this type of chart will please specialists more than the general reader.

It is designed to be purely descriptive, which explains the absolute equality given to each flow, as indicated by the choice of unique colors and/or patterns for each.

As a data graphic, it can be  improved if the designer has a point to make.  In that situation, only the relevant flows can be highlighted while all others stay in the background.

As it stands, this chart murmurs but does not opine.

Reference: "U.S. Energy Flow - 2002", Energy & Environment Directorate, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.


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Tal Rotbart

I love this diagram, but I have two small points to make:

I'm missing a sense of the direction for the flow. I know that for most of the western world the left-to-right flow is assumed and obvious. But I come from a right-to-left language and an arrow head on the right-most ends of the flow would have helped me quite a bit.
My second point is just the simple "Rejected energy" label which in the original graph was "Conversion losses", which was more accurate and had a stronger message.

All in all, an excellent graph.


Tal - great comment

One nice feature of this chart is that it is symmetric in the sense that if I want to know what were the sources of the "useful energy", I could trace this from right to left

Your point about the cultural preference of reading from left to right versus right to left is still valid. One can ask why one doesn't put the energy sources on the right and the uses on the left!

Robert Kosara

"As it stands, this chart murmurs but does not opine."

Interesting point! I guess that makes it a visualization, rather than an information graphic. The visualization (IMHO) should not bias the view in any way, but leave drawing the conclusions to the viewer. An information graphic is usually drawn to make a point, and will therefore stress certain things more. Of course, none of them are completely unbiased, but at least the visualization will try to as much as possible.

I personally prefer the unbiased view, because it makes the things I find much more impressive than knowing that the data has been predigested and the graphic is just a colorful way of shoving the conclusion into my face.

Roger Daventry

Somewhat like a railway system with platforms to the traintracks of energy use. Quite a tangle. Sad for me is that the figures do not add up and I wonder where the lost bits are or is it the overspend of 'non fuel'?
I feel that the comparisons perhaps do not need so much detail. The detail can be in the individual tracks. Perhaps it is better to have sub plot visuals with the comparison giving the message required for discussion?

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