Sloppy statistics
As simple as possible but no simpler

Lining things up

Guess where I went for vacation (clue in the chart).

This long, narrow country is divided into 15 regions.  In the chart below, an uneven parade of 13 bubbles was used to present some sort of economic projections.  The capital of the country was singled out as the top of the table.


The unevenness has a side effect, that the guiding lines are forced to have differing lengths and bewildering turns.  Further, because bubbles have no intrinsic scale, the designer must put all the data onto the map as well, thus failing our self-sufficiency test..

The following bar chart version respects the wide, thin space and yet delivers the data more clearly.  The top version displays all the data while the bottom one uses a simple axis The bottom chart is my preference since most readers are probably interested in approximate and relative comparisons, rather than exact projections.  (The map would be better off without colors.)


Reference: "Inversiones entre 2008 y 2012 llegaran a US$ 57 mil millones impulsadas por mineria y energia", El Mercurio, Aug 25 2008.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


I like the last chart too, but I'd rather change the map for a series of labels. Bars side by side are in the same position as Chile regions, so why do we need the map?

Jan Schultink

Everyone knows Chile as being "vertical". Map upright. Column of labels to the right connected with dotted lines to the regions on the map, regular bar chart to the right of that


An upright map makes a lot of sense to me. Not just because it is Chile, but also because this will allow more room to show the data using bars. (For example, 365 and 551 are practically invisible right now.)

For ease of recognition, it might be useful to "connect" the region boundaries to their bars using some unobtrusive shading. The actual numbers could be shown to the right of each bar so they remain prominent.

Enjoyable, as always. Thanks for calling this out.


Am I the only one who thinks the original looks a lot better than the proposed replacements, and its supposed deficiencies are minor at worst? I'm aware of the issue with comparing size of bubbles but the map-driven spacing of the bars in the bar charts also makes it hard to compare their heights. I might simplify the design of the lines connecting bubbles to data but that's about it.

Finally, it seems to me the horizontal orientation makes perfect sense in the context of the usual layout of a page. Maybe this isn't so unusual in Chile? What's so superior about north anyway? ;-)


Tom: how is the map-driven spacing of the bubbles in the bubble chart better than the map-driven spacing of the bars?

Jan: I suppose a large vertical chart on a newspaper does not look so good. The original comes from one of the major Chilean papers and it is horizontal.

btw, I should credit the Australian embassy website where I found the green/orange Chilean map.

Jan Schultink

@Kaiser: OK, maybe you are right about vertical charts in newspapers.
@Tom: I am actually curious about whether the horizontal layout is "normal" in Chile. New Zealand, Norway are maybe the only other countries with this issue, but not as extreme as Chile. Here, Israel (also a bit tall) is always displayed vertically :-)


I'm not saying the map-spaced bubbles are better, just that they're perhaps no worse. To me there's something visually unsatisfying about introducing a horizontal axis then having things arbitrarily spaced along it.

If the geographical variation in this economic indicator is felt to be important, how about a map shaded by value of the indicator?

The comments to this entry are closed.