Explaining the appeal of certain graphs
Signed-book Contest Results

The gulf remains wide

The gulf between infographics and statistical graphics, that is.

Snakeoil_supplements_956 Stan at Mashable praised "5 Amazing Infographics for the Health Conscious". They belong to the class of "pretty things" that are touted all over the Web but from a statistical graphics perspective, they are dull.

Reader Mike L. poked me about the snake oil chart (right) while I was writing up this post. The snake oil chart is by David McCandless whose Twitter chart I liked quite a bit.

This one, not very much.

If the location and cluster membership of the substances depicted have some meaning, I might even feel ok about the effervescence. But I don't think so.

I continue to love his pithy text labels though; the "worth it line", truly.

The data (if verified) is pretty useful though since there are so many health supplements out there, and as a consumer, it's impossible to know which ones are sham.  (Ben Goldacre's site may help.)


Now, let's run through the low lights of the rest:

I'm still trying to figure out what plus-minus means in the Dirty Water graphic.

The fact that the four buildings are not considered one complete unit also trips me up. The Truckee Meadows is depicted as 7 buildings, not divisible by 4. In addition, if 2 short buildings + 1 tall + 1 medium = 200,000 people, how many people live in 2 tall + 1 medium + 4 short buildings?


The obesity charts are pinatas.

The cost of health care chart is boring, just a prettied up data table. Why are life expectancy statistics expressed in 2 decimal places, and not in years and months?


Why 78.11 years and not 78 years (or 78 years, 1 month)?

The scatter chart relating survival rates of people with various ailments and the survival rates of virues/bacteria left outside our bodies is alright but do we care about this correlation?


I hate to be so negative but I can't believe these are examples of good infographics.

My appeal for readers to send in positive examples still stand!


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

Tom West

I have seen the "±" sign used to mean "approximately", and I think that is its meaning here. A better symbol is the tilde, "~". (Apologies to anyone with a screenreader).


The great "advantage" of infographics over statistical graphics is that their only (?) purpose is to make a point. In trying to achieve this, they may utilize many different means to grab the readers attentions - something statisticians are definitely not trained for. So the verdict over an infographics from a statistical point of view should check:
(i) is it based in serious data
(ii) is potential extra information (not based on data) obscuring the message
(iii) is the point of the graphics statistically sound enough

If all three points are ok, why bothering over details.

The comments to this entry are closed.