Data Viz Done Right

June 18, 2018

Makeover Monday: U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report

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I've seen lots of headlines in the US since March about how bad the flu outbreak was this year, so I did a bit of googling and found this week's Makeover Monday topic. The chart we are to makeover comes from the CDC.



What works well?


  • Clearly marking the x-axis so that it's evident that the weeks don't start at the beginning of the year
  • Including the national baseline for context
  • Chart dimensions scaled properly
  • Using red for the most recent season so that it stands out more

What could be improved?

  • The colors are too bright and are competing for attention.
  • The symbols on the 2017-18 line are unnecessary.
  • The start of the 2009-10 season is wrong, according to the data that can be downloaded.
  • The national baseline should be weekly, not flat across the time period.

What I did

  • I liked the idea behind the original chart, so I kept that but made it look nicer and more focused.
  • I included a summary to set the context for the line chart.
  • I included the national average by week for context.
  • Use a stepped chart to make the weekly change easier to see.
  • Focus the lines on the two outlier periods.

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