In the course of business and governing, a lot of charts are generated. An anonymous tipster pointed us to a set created by the "Communities and Local Government" division in the UK government. Judging from the content, this division has responsibility for economic development in local neighborhoods.
Below are a pair of exhibits. Truly they are trying too hard! What we see is a hybrid scatter-bubble chart. Between the jargon, the acronyms (LAD, LSOA), the boxed text, the multi-color circles, the colored axis labels and lack of title, the reader is plunged into a state of confusion.
The chart can be unraveled. Each district was evaluated based on two measures of "gaps in worklessness". The vertical axis compares each district to the national average; positive numbers indicate an above-average district relative to the nation. The horizontal axis compares the most deprived 10% neighborhood within each district to the local average; positive numbers indicate worst neighborhoods improving.
Thus, the policy goal would be to move all districts into the upper right quadrant. The multi-color bubbles were designed to show us the state of the nation. On the left chart, 41% of the districts (or population?) reside in the improving districts while 19% live in deteriorating areas.
The following strategies can help improve readability:
- use English on the axis
- relegate technical definitions to the legend
- add succinct title to tell the story
- use color on the data rather than on axis or data labels
- use color to draw attention to the upper right quadrant
- remove bubbles
- define acronyms