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Certainly a terrible use of bubbles here, but I think there are cases where using circle area to communicate quantity is useful. It's nice if you have values that vary by too large a factor to express using bars. Also, it can be used to compare a subset to a whole. And on occasion you might have a gigantic number that you want to let run off the chart area, and the curve of the circle's edge allows the reader to complete the circle. I think the recent carbon bomb graphic is a decent expression of the first couple ideas:



Agreed that bubbles are a bad design choice for displaying a single list of values. But a common uses of bubbles is to display positions along with other values represented as size and/or color. This is a much more appropriate use case and not completely hopeless. In this case you're trying to visually represent the trend in 3-4 variables simultaneously. Yes, bubble size is more difficult to measure than bar lengths are, but combining the values into a single plot is the point. You're not going to get the same thing by showing me 4 bar charts side-by-side and asking me to blend the information from multiple charts.


I think bubbles can be a nice sort of lagniappe on a scatter chart. THe idea being that the scatter chart shows the two important dimensions, and the bubbles replace the markers to become a supplementary third dimension, not essential but nice to have.

Because it's not essential, it's okay to have it lower down the Cleveland hierarchy, and if asked why you didn't use a better channel, you can answer "because I already used up the better channels on the vital dimensions".


I agree with others; you have chosen pointless one-dimensional bubble charts. A bubble chart is very useful when you have basically X-Y data, but you want to show the relative importance of different points (e.g. size of a market).


I think the graphic overall is nice. How would you have displayed the same information?

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