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Junk Charts talk

The NYU talk was quite successful, and it was great to meet some of our readers in person. The slides can be downloaded from here (800 KB pdf). There were many thoughtful questions from the audience.

The talk was called "Five Years of Chart Reading". Probably should have subtitled it, "condensed to 20 minutes". While preparing the talk, I realized that I have written over 500 posts since the blog came into being. I know, that works out to be only once every 3 or 4 days, what a lazy bum. But since most of my posts are substantive, the collection really did cover a lot of ground.

For many readers, especially those who have followed the blog from its early days, the contents of the talk should be familiar. I had time to develop only one general theme--not surprisingly, I picked "self-sufficiency". 

I did introduce one new idea: the "Trifecta Checkup" framework for chart critique. I believe this is the constant behind pretty much all the posts on Junk Charts. All outstanding charts have all three elements in harmony. Typically, a problematic chart gets only two of the three pieces right. I will be elaborating on this framework in subsequent posts.


In the first half of the talk, Dona Wong gave examples of her work at the Wall Street Journal, and Siegel+Gale, which is a brand consulting company that designed the 1040EZ form. Like myself, she believes the key to good graphics lies with the upfront "data strategy", and not tools or software. I particularly liked her examples of portraying relative energy consumption of various household appliances, displaying daily spending patterns in a way that answers the question directly, and revamping the weather section to be more "business-friendly".

Check out Wong's new book on graphics here.


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Dona Wong

It was an absolute delight speaking with Kaiser Fung at NYU Stern. As one member of the audience said, "Kaiser's high-level and useful critique, which clearly comes from a statistician's point of view is a good complement to Dona's great sense of humor that lifts the tone of information design to a more accessible place, with great examples of information transformations."

You can see many more examples of dos and don'ts in the book "The Wall Street Journal Guide to Information Graphics."

Mikael Simberg

While I do like the trifecta checkup 'triangle', it did get me thinking if it fulfills the criteria itself... (ok, it's not really a chart, but probably a diagram). What's the triforce style background doing for the diagram? And the purple (with a gradient) background? Smells like chartjunk to me ;)

Why not just have the questions in the same triangular fashion, but use black text on white with the words 'practical question', 'data say' and 'chart say' in bold or even in red to emphasize. That would seem to do the job much more efficiently.

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