Data Viz Done Right

October 21, 2016

Fix It Friday: Ten Alternatives Methods for Presenting Alcohol Consumption in OECD Countries

12 comments
If this post turns into a bit of rant, bear with me. Let's start with the Tweet that got me worked up:


You might think "It's just a chart Andy, relax!" True. It's a chart. It's not changing the world or anything. There are several things that have me a bit upset:

  1. Paul Kirby calls the chart "interesting" and maybe the CONTENT is interesting, but the chart is terrible.
  2. He says "Austrians drink twice as much as Italians", a fact that is simply not true. They drink 61% more than Italians. You can't just spout facts like that.
  3. Paul is visiting professor at the London School of Economics. I can only assume that his students follow him on Twitter. When he tweets things like this, his student will assume that this is how charts should be made, which only proliferates the number of poor charts we'll continue to see.

The chart itself has its own set of problems:

  1. It's too dark overall. The dark red bars and dark bottles are hard to see against the blue background.
  2. The flags are unnecessary. What value do they add?
  3. The bottles are cute, but unnecessary decoration.
  4. The legend is in reverse order.
  5. Do the bottle extend beyond the bars or do they start from the same baseline?
  6. It has a weak title. What's the story?

This is chart junk at its best. Don't create charts like this. I went to the OECD website and downloaded the data. Below I present ten alternative charts that all work better than the original. You can download the Tableau workbook with all of these charts here.











12 comments :

  1. Great post, Andy! My vote is for chart #3. (what do you call that viz style?) Challenge: Can you move the country labels closer bars and position them so that the labels appear immediately to the left of the red bars and to the right of the blue bars?

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    1. I like chart #3 the best. It's just a bar chart that shows the difference, so I don't think it has any special name. And nice challenge! Here you go - https://goo.gl/photos/onSLrv96wE6qjMJU9

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    2. I think I like this newest version with you recommendations even better. Thanks for the suggestion!

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    3. Nice! how did you do the label positioning and color (which is a nice touch, btw)?

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    4. You should be able to download the workbook. I labeled them with a dual axis gantt chart fixed at 0. I then had to manually move half of them. Took about 5 min.

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    5. Lesson learned: before playing 30 min with the workbook and try to reverse engineering the chart, read all the comments. "I then had to manually move half of them." Ha!

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  2. This is really great - nice to see the different approaches applied to the same data-set! Downloading the workbook doesn't seem to be an option anymore for some reason - unless there is an issue my end...

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    1. Strange! That must have happened when I uploaded it again. I've fixed it. You can download it now.

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  3. Great stuff, thanks for that! Was trying to re-create but got stuck on some of them :)

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    1. No problem Lou! Thanks for letting me know. Glad to see you're using this for practice too. It's fun to create lots of charts and explore the possibilities.

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  4. Andy,

    A great post with some terrific alternatives (and the red and green you use in the fourth chart are color vision deficiency-friendly!) Do note that I believe Kirby's assertion that Austrians drink twice as much as Italians is in fact correct -- at least it is in 2014 in *his* chart as it looks like a little more than 12 for Austria and a little more than 6 for Italy. Your numbers appear to be a bit different (A little more than 7 for Italy in 2014).

    Steve

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    1. Thanks Steve! Indeed his chart does look like Austria is 2x Italy, but the data is certainly not what OECD provides. Thanks for the comments!

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