Showing both absolute and relative values on the same chart 1
Deconstructing graphics as an analysis tool in dataviz

Showing both absolute and relative values on the same chart 2

In the previous post, I looked at Visual Capitalist's visualization of the amount of uninsured deposits at U.S. banks. Using a stacked bar chart, I placed both absolute and relative values on the same chart.

In making that chart, I made these three tradeoffs.

First, I elevated absolute values (dollar amounts) over relative values (proportions). The original designer decided the opposite.

Second, I elevated the TBTF banks over the smaller banks. The original designer also decided the opposite.

Third, I elevated the total value over the disaggregated values (insured, uninsured). The original designer only visualized the uninsured values in the bars.

Which chart is better depends on what story one wants to tell.

For today's post, I'm showing another sketch of the same data, with the same goal of putting both absolute and relative values on the same chart.


The starting point of this sketch is the original chart - the stacked bar chart showing relative proportions. I added the insured portion so that it is on almost equal footing as the uninsured portion of the deposits. This edit is crucial to convey the impression of proportions.

My story hasn't changed; I still want to elevate the TBTF banks.

For this version, I try a different way of elevating TBTF banks. The key step is to encode data into the heights of the bars. I use these bar heights to convey the relative importance of banks, as reflected by total deposits.

The areas of the red blocks represent the uninsured amounts. That said, it's not easy to compare rectangular areas when both dimensions are different.

Comparing the total red area with the total yellow area, we learn that the majority of deposits in these banks are uninsured(!)



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Just what I was thinking yesterday! :-)


derek: Adding to the post above, I don't see this version as clearly superior to the other. This version does foreground the proportions relative to the absolute values but in general I try to avoid rectangles of irregular shapes (like treemaps). The stacked bar chart with absolute values keeps the two dimensions separate and should be considered as a strong contender.

Michael Wexler

I actually like this one better. It better communicates the two dimensions of "there's a lot of uninsured $$$s, esp. in the bigger banks" while also showing "for some banks, a very scary portion of their deposits are uninsured, and that's a risk".

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