Data Viz Done Right

May 18, 2015

Makeover Monday: How Much Water Is Used to Produce Your Food?

Quick makeover this week (we have a Segway tour of Boston at #Inspire15 in 30 minutes). I saw this graphic on the LA Times about the amount of water it takes to produce a single ounce of food.

It’s cute and it’s interactive, but it’s not very good for making comparisons or ranking. Bubble plots are notoriously difficult this way. For example, tell me quickly which food uses the 3rd most water? Tough to tell, right? I also don’t understand why they grouped fruits and vegetables together.

I manually recreated the data in Excel, which you can download here. Hopefully I recorded everything correctly; if not, please let me know. I then quickly built a chart in Tableau. I’ve addressed the issues that bubbles present, ranking and comparison, by using a bar chart instead.

Going back to the previous question, using my viz, which food uses the 3rd most water? Simple right? How about the 10th most vegetable? That’s simple too; all you need to do is click the color on the right.