Shortchanging and subverting the message
Designers fuss over little details and so should you

Bumps chart goes mainstream

It’s a happy day when one of my favorite chart types, the Bumps chart, makes it to the Wall Street Journal, and the front page no less! (Link to article)

This chart shows the ground shifting in global auto production in the next five years, with Mexico and India gaining in rank over Germany and South Korea.


The criss-crossing of lines is key to reading these charts. A crossing ("bump") necessarily means one entity has surpassed the other entity in absolute terms, even though we are looking at the relative rank.

Of course, there is no Swiss Army Knife of charts. This graphic provides no clue as to the share of world production. It's quite possible that the first few countries account for the majority of the world's producction, so that the rank shifts toward the bottom of the chart are relatively inconsequential. Wikipedia says that the top player (China) produces a quarter of the world's vehicles, and twice as many as the next biggest producer. Any country ranked below 4 accounts for less than 5 percent of global volume.


I made a few minor edits in this version below. Fro example, it's unclear why both 2014 and 2015 are depicted since there were no rank shifts and also the 2015 data is a projection. (I don't have any problem with the two red lines even though I didn't carry over the color scheme.)



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I may have mentioned this on here before, but the name comes from the May Bumps in Cambridge - a series of races in June. Unlike a regatta, crews start rowing from ranked staging points, so each college is chasing another. If you catch up to the crew in front of you, you 'bump' them. Then, in the next race you switch positions. You can also be bumped by the crew chasing you (meaning you slip down a rank), or 'row over' meaning you row the entire course without being bumped (no position change).

The bumps chart was invented as a way of keeping track of which crew was to start at which staging point (i.e. who had bumped who in the last race). The original one (as far as I know) is hanging in the Cambridge University Student Union Society building.

Here's a video of the race:


Jegar: Thanks for the note. Yes, I first came across this chart while at Cambridge. In the early days of this blog, I did a series of posts about it: here, here, and here.

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