Data Viz – How Close Are We to a Budget Deal?

Congress is almost out of runway on a deal to lift the U.S. debt ceiling, with negotiations continuing and a number of issues on the table. To help visualize the issues that need to be negotiated, I created this data viz.

Here’s a gambit that might work: Obama could announce plans to hold talks in 2014 to negotiate a long-term deficit-reduction plan. With the deficit out of control, this conversation is long overdue anyway. That takes this request off the table for Republicans and allows them to declare a moral victory. It also allows Obama to declare a moral victory by not tying any deal to negotiating a long-term budget in the next six weeks.

Otherwise, it will be painful to find a middle ground.

Right now, Susan Collins (R, Maine) has the plan with the most support from both Democrats and Republicans, although president Obama did not endorse it and so Democratic Senate leaders are resisting it too. But it moves the two sides closer together.

How will it all end? My hope is a deal will be reached and this blog post is outdated by Monday, October 14. But the world watches and waits…

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

Top 5 Examples of Storytelling with Graphs

As part of writing my new book “Storytelling with Graphs” I’ve studied 50 examples of graphs that tell stories. Some of them are publicly visible, such as TED talks, newspaper infographics and YouTube videos. Some are not, such as business reports and presentations that contain confidential information.

Below, I list the top 5 examples of storytelling with graphs and below it a full list of the examples that are publicly visible. Which ones would you add? Leave a comment in the comments section. If you want to be alerted when my book “Storytelling with Graphs” is published, subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group.

 

#1. Wealth Inequality in America
This video, showing how wealth distribution is even worse than people imagine, does a great job of capturing our attention and then using animation and suspense to reveal the truth.

 

 

#2. Barack Obama’s Recovery Act
This has a simple and clear story structure: conflict, character, resolution.

 

 

#3. The National Debt Road Trip
Great use of metaphor to turn an abstract idea into something easier to imagine, and so talk about.

 

 

#4. What are the Wall Street Protestors Angry About?
Henry Blodget does a great job of bringing four characters to life: corporate owners, the top 1%, bankers and laborers and shows how corporate profits are sucking the life out of America. See the slide show on BusinessInsider.com

 

#5. Hans Rosling Ikea Boxes
Rosling is most famous for his animated bubble charts. But the Ikea boxes work even better at introducing us to the world’s inhabitants and showing how the world is changing, and will change in the future.

 

 The Full List
And here’s the full list of publicly-available examples of storytelling with graphs I reviewed for my new book, which should be available in October 2013. Enjoy!

 

Live/Animated Presentation
A Song of Our Warming Planet >>
An Inconvenient Truth  Video >>  | Transcript >>  | TED talk >>
Are The Poor Getting Poorer?  >>
Barack Obama’s Recovery Act >>
Do Women Earn Less than Men? >>
Economist (many videos to choose from) >>
Fiscal Cliff >>
Hans Rosling Ikea Boxes >>
Hans Rosling’s New Insights on Poverty >>
Hans Rosling Spread of AIDS >>
Hans Rosling Washing Machine >>
How Fast is Usain Bolt? >>
How Mariano Rivera Dominates Hitters >>
Income Mobility in America  >>
Inside Job  >>
LearnLiberty.org Videos (many to choose from) >>
National Debt Road Trip  (Matthias Shapiro) >>
Obama Budget Cuts, In Pennies  (Matthias Shapiro) >>
U.S.A. Inc.  >>
Visualizing How A Population Grows to 7 Billion >>
Wealth Inequality in America >>
What if 4 asteroids were heading toward U.S. in 50 years? >>

 

Slide Show
Carbon Emissions >>
Our College Crisis (Bill Gates) >>
What the Wall Street Protesters are Angry About  >>

 

Interactive Graph
Job Report, Diverging Perspectives >>
Obesity Epidemic >>

 

Static Graph
Napoleon’s March on Russia  >>
The Rich Get Richer Through the Recovery >>
Titanic Survivors  >>
Traffic Fatalities >>

What’s Wrong With This Infographic?

I spend a lot of time these days studying infographics. Part of the research for my new book “Storytelling with Graphs”.

But I keep running across atrocities like this – nice design, terrible understanding of data. Do you see the problem? Study the picture, then scroll down for my analysis.

 

My comments

1. First, this donut charts adds up to 138%! What does this even mean?

2. The blue Twitter.com donut slice barely makes it halfway around the donut – it’s more like 60%, not 78%. Unfortunately, some reader is going to grab that statistic and share it with others. This mistruth will be picked up as “fact” by people who don’t double-check the source, and repeated on their blogs, Twitter accounts, PowerPoint decks.

3. There are several donut slices that could be color-coded differently to form mini-groups. Especially, the mobile apps could be different shades of green, grouping them into a mobile access sub-group. Then the message gets clearer: Twitter.com is the most common way people send tweets, mobile phones is the second most common.

Designers are ahead of the rest of us in exploring the possibilities in data visualization for a mass audience. But I hope they will continue to educate themselves on data visualization techniques that bring the truth out. Design can be a powerful tool to reveal the truth, or to conceal the truth.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

 

Infographic – How Secure is Your Password?

I love infographics. So I was intrigued when I came across some stats on how combining more lowercase, uppercase  and numbers increased your password security, measured in number of days/months/years needed to hack it.

And I created this infographic to visualize the increase in security. See how big a difference it makes?

In case you’re interested, this is known as a unit chart and it’s one of many charts I’ll be sharing in my new book, tentatively titled “Storytelling with Graphs.” Subscribe to this blog to hear when it’s released.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

How to Tell Better Stories With Infographics

I notice a disturbing trend in infographics. Instead of bringing the story to the surface, infographics instead crush the story under a thick gloss of glitzy design, color and iconography. It’s a shame because these artfully designed infographics could be so much more useful with better data visualization skills.

Below are 2 examples, with my comments and makeover.

 

1. Is a Master’s Degree Worth It? (original >>)

This is a great title and so timely given the skyrocketing cost of education. The infographic design is artful, but does it really answer the question it posed?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My comments

1. This infographic doesn’t answer the main question posed. Can you, at a glance, tell if a master’s degree is “worth it”? That’s the point of an infographic – to make the meaning instantly clear, isn’t it?

2. The graph highlights the wrong data: the lifetime earnings for a bachelor’s versus master’s degree. But that’s NOT the data we are interested in. We are interested in the DIFFERENCE earned. We can highlight the difference by overlapping the bars to mainly reveal the sliver that makes up the difference.

3. The bars are not sorted in any meaningful way. You could, for instance, sort them from greatest difference at the top to lowest difference at the bottom, showing SOME degrees pay off more handsomely than others.

4. Attention is stretched across the page. The eye has to stretch to read the axis labels way on the left and data labels way on the right. The bars are also unnecessarily long. Packing things together more tightly helps.

5. Data to the exact dollar is too detailed and harms readability. Rounding to the nearest thousand dollars makes this graph more readable.

Here’s the infographic makeover. What do you think?

 

2. A Dropout Epidemic (original >>)

The catchy title promises to show you some startling dropout rates. Here’s a snip of the infographic. What do you think? Are these rates alarming?

My comments

1. This graph shows the wrong data: graduation rates. But we are interested in DROPOUT rates, which you must derive by looking at the whitespace above the bars (pencils). The fix is simple: create bar graphs showing the DROPOUT rate.

2. The bars show ethnic sub-groups in some random order. That destroys any patterns we might see in the data. Instead, they should be ordered to reveal the pattern from groups with the highest dropout rate (Black) to lowest (Asian). Now, for each state, we can see the pattern and even spot differences more easily in each state (eg. low Black dropout rates in Arizona).

3. The average statewide dropout rate is shown at the bottom, as text in a scribble. The scribble size is supposed to indicate the magnitude, but it’s no better than a table since you are so dependent on the written numbers. Instead, just add a reference line to each graph. Now you can easily compare each group against the state average, and even the difference in state averages.

4. The pencils are overly-detailed, which is creative and engages the reader, but it’s distracting. Notice how the dark metal band is the focal point, pulling your eye down from the end of the bar, making you struggle to read the data. I would reduce these to minimally designed pencils – perhaps using a dark eraser tip to attract the eye upward.

5. The data legend is difficult to read placed off to the side. Instead, move the data labels closer to the data and arranged in the same left-to-right sequence as the data.

Here’s the infographic makeover. What do you think?

This is the era of Big Data and telling stories with data. I’d like to see infographic designers take to heart their important mission of revealing the story in their data through their design, rather than just dressing up data without revealing the story. That’s the basis for my next book – tentatively titled “Storytelling With Graphs”. Subscribe to my blog or LinkedIn group to learn when that book is available.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.