The electoral map sans the map
Four numbers say little, even on a busy chart

Budding graphics connoisseurs from Down Under

A reader, Stephen M., who's a high school math Information Technology teacher in Australia, assigned the following chart to his class as a Junk Charts style assignment. (link to original here)

Behance_donationWe have seen racetrack charts before (e.g. here or here), and we have dual racetracks here.

Stephen's class identified the following problems with the chart:

- The group agreed this should be better called a data visualisation than an infographic

- The purpose of the 'infographic' seems to be more on the design/form, than the function of conveying an understanding of the data

- There seems to be a bit of an optical illusion with the lower upper circle for the US appearing larger than the upper lower one (we checked, there isn't)

- There are no clear labels to assist. It is an assumption that because in the heading and the figures, population is on top of donations, that the lines are the same. The class agreed that country labels would help to the left of each line start.

- No scale on the lines and where do you measure from/to (especially as the US line is a single line for a proportion of the way

- It's too abstract and the spatial separation of the curves makes comparison difficult.


Wow, that's great critique from the 16-year-olds. They are working on ways to re-make this graphic. One good idea is to collapse the two dimensions into one: per-capita donations.

Another issue with this chart is that the countries are sorted in different ways from one chart to the next. It's really difficult to compare one country to another.

It is also instructive to discuss what the key message is in this data. Why those six countries? What kinds of donations are being counted? Do the counting methodology differ by country? How comparable is the data?

Finally, is this art or is this science?

P.S. [12/2/2012] Stephen noted that another deficiency identified by the students is the lack of sourcing. Indeed, where did the data come from? They think it's the CIA Factbook.


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

Jon Peltier

Uh, what am I supposed to decode, anyway? The diameters of the arcs? Until I know that, it's only a potentially attractive picture.


Agreed, Jon - I can't even figure out what I'm supposed to be using to compare countries or population vs donations...

Cole Nussbaumer

Great commentary. I still haven't quite figured out what the picture depicts. I'm not sure this is art or science!


You do realize this just looks like the ball part of a dick drawing, yes?

The comments to this entry are closed.