Circular but insufficient
Three good charts


Reader Boise-state-facts-figures-2014-updated Aaron W. came across this "Facts and Figures" infographic about Boise State University that seemingly is aimed at alumni of the school. Given that Boise State has a good reputation for analytics, Aaron found it disconcerting to see such a low-quality data graphic. (click on the image to see it in full size).

There are numerous little things to grumble about in each section of the chart. The larger issue though is the overall composition. When assembling a chart like this, it is important to provide a navigation path for readers, whether explicitly or through cues.

It's difficult to discern the organizing principles of this chart. Aaron felt this way: "the total information flow is haphazard, if not entirely incoherent. There is some valuable information here, but at best it gets lost in the shuffle."

For example, some statistics are for undergraduate students only, some are for graduate students, and some are offered in aggregate.


Confusion reigns. We learn that the school has total enrollment of 22K students but it's a little math quiz to learn how many are undergraduates. In certain sections, data about faculty members are mixed with those about students.

Not breaking out undergraduates from graduates is a particular problem when presenting demographics, such as age distributions, ethnicity, etc.


It's odd to present this distribution of age without remarking that the undergrads are shown on the left and the graduate students are shown on the right.

Then, the sections presenting counts of students, faculty, degrees, etc. overlap with sections presenting financial data.


A rethinking of this page should start with identifying the key questions readers would be interested in learning, and then organizing the data to suit those needs.





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