This one takes time to make, takes even more time to read
Visualizing electoral college politics: exercise in displaying relationships between variables

Another simple Excel chart needs help

Twitter friend Jimmy A. asked if I can help Elon Musk make this chart "more readable".


Let's start with a couple of things he did right. Placing SpaceX, his firm's data, at the bottom of the chart is perfect, as the bottom part of a stacked column chart is the only part that is immediately readable. Combining all of Europe into one category and Other U.S. into one group reduce the number of necessary colors.

Why is this chart unreadable? Here is a line-up of the culprits:

  • Red Russia is stealing the thunder
  • SpaceX is sharing the blues with Japan/China/Other U.S.
  • The legend is sorted in the opposite way as the column segments (courtesy of Excel defaults)
  • Axis labels given to two decimal places for market share split only a small number of ways
  • It's unclear what "market share" means: is it share of the number of launches or the revenues generated by those launches? Is the "base" of the market share changing over time?
  • The last two columns are speculative and these are the two years in which SpaceX has a noticeable advantage (unless they are talking about contracts already concluded)

 According to the underlying data, there are some very big changes at foot. The following small-multiples chart shows what is going on:





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Kelly Brehm

What do the circles on the lines for the first three represent?
Also, while I do like this look much better (stacked charts are my number one dislike), this view makes it difficult to determine the year intersect. Maybe a very light line grid would help?

Justin Malloy

The circles represent the projected years for those 3, I believe.


KB: If the year intersect is a key concern, then the fix is to repeat the horizontal axis labels for the first row of charts. I like to avoid gridlines when there are only a few values as here.

JM: yes, the circles are projected data, or maybe we should call them unrealized data since they may have signed an agreement already. I should have made the circles smaller and less intrusive. I don't want to draw attention to them but for those who want a deeper interpretation, they are there for the taking.


Helping elon musk is good..its very confusing between china, japan and space x ..


A superposed line graph would seem to work better. Also, the bars where a group is missing should show as zero on the line charts.


I was looking for a good blog about charts, and this is the first post I saw. I am *seriously* disappointed. You're an arm-chair critic, and not even a good one, let alone expert in any way. Here are some additional critiques:
* making the competitors all from a similar color pallet — but different than SpaceX's color — would emphasize SpaceX better.
* flags / logos would remove the need for any legend, both in bar and line graph alternatives, removing an unneeded an element and making the graph easily readable.
* putting Russia at the top would help show Russia's decreased market share over time; putting Europe above it would help show the relative steadiness.
* a good blog post would share a revision of the bar graph addressing your critiques.
* Is the small-multiples chart your attempt at suggesting alternative? It's absolutely terrible. Here are only a few reasons:
1) You repeat the graph in seven boxes. The viewer now has to process seven separate graphs. The viewer also has to assemble them instead of just seeing them together.
2) You have an eighth space that is not used, yet is labeled as if it were intended to be used. The viewer has to figure out what the hell you're (not) doing there.
3) You repeat axes, percentages, and years (8 times no less), which adds clutter to the the visual processing issue stated in the first critique.
4) The layout of eight graphs in two rows is not only unnecessary but disorienting. Such layout should accomplish something or be avoided.
5) Your graph also does not highlight SpaceX except for placing it first.
6) Line graphs don't show parts of a whole, and that's what market *share* is about.

The stacked bars idea is probably the best of the three discussed so far here, especially if executed better. However, there may be other, better ideas, and that's why I was looking for a good blog. This is clearly not the place to come.


Banish the other data. If the point is SpaceX's market share, that's all the data you need.

excel tutorials

The circles represent the projected years for those 3 in excel chart.

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