Using comparison to enrich a visual story
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This holiday retailers hope it will snow dollars

According to the Conference Board, the pandemic will not deter U.S. consumers from emptying their wallets this holiday season. Here's a chart that shows their expectation (link):



A few little things make this chart work:

The "More" category is placed on the left, as English-speaking countries tend to be read Left-to-Right, and it is also given the deepest green, drawing our attention.

Only the "More" segments have data labels. I'd have omitted the decimals. I suspect they are added because financial analysts may be multiplying these percentages to yield dollar amounts, in which case the extra precision helps.

The categories are ordered by the decreasing propensity of increased spending this year relative to last year. (The business community has an optimism bias.)

The choice of three shades of one color instead of three different colors keeps the chart clean.


The use of snowflakes surely infuriates a hardcore Tufte fan although I like that they add a festive note to the presentation. The large snowflake isn't randomly positioned but placed exactly where it causes the least interference with the bar chart.



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Huh. I find the large snowflake and its vertical lines near the data points super distracting. Not I-can't-read-this-chart bad, but... pretty bad. This is a simple plot and should be easy to comprehend at a glance.


MVE: The large flake is definitely controversial. I appreciate its precise placement because by tracing the flake my eyes are actually following the edges of that middle block, which is exactly what my eyes would be doing if I wanted to compare the "top 2" boxes.

Of course, context matters too. Scientific publications are different from business presentations.


The snowflake helps to distract from the fact that, in every category, more respondents said they planned to spend less than last year than those who said they planned to spend more.

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