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December 14, 2012

VizWiz Contest: Electric City has been eaten by pies and donuts. Save it!


Tufte says “Pie charts are bad and that the only thing worse than one pie chart is lots of them.”  Well, I think pies inside donuts and lots of them is even worse.

In the spirit of thrashing incredibly crappy visualization, I thought I’d run a data viz contest.  The goal is simple – redesign this visualization from the Guardian.

Download the data here.  I have transcribed the numbers exactly from the Guardian’s “viz”, so don’t shoot the messenger if the numbers don’t seem to quite add up to 100% in some cases.

I hate rules, but it seems like this contest probably needs a few.

  1. Deadline: December 31, 2012 @ 11:59pm ET (assuming we all make it past December 21st)
  2. Email me your submission or a link to it here.
  3. One entry per person.  Send me more than one and I’ll ignore your entries. 
  4. I don’t care what tool you use.  It’s your choice.  Draw it on paper if that’s your preference.  Using Tableau will NOT give you an advantage over others.
  5. Judging is based solely on my personal opinion of your design.  If you’ve been following this blog, then you probably have a good feel for what I like, and maybe more importantly what I don’t like.
  6. The winner will receive an embroidered Facebook zip up hoodie.  Retail value $750. Facebook swag is priceless so I may be over exaggerating a bit.
  7. The winner will be announced sometime in the first two weeks of January.

Good luck!  Hopefully this doesn’t turn out to be a disaster (and don’t complain if you don’t win).


  1. Interestingly only Stockholm is off by 1.5%, and all others total to exactly 100%. This looks like an error on the part of the graphic creator.

    Do you know if the underlying data is available?

  2. Copenhagen is also a tenth of a percent high. (100.1%)

  3. That's exactly the point in my blog post. I simply transcribed the data because I was not able to find the source data. If you want to fudge the numbers, I'm ok with that. The viz is the critical part of the contest. Or leave the data as is and make that part of the story.

  4. What Tufte said was "A table is nearly always better than a dumb pie chart; the only worse design than a pie chart is several of them …" See page 178 of The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.

    1. Hi Naomi. I was quoting Tufte from the seminar of his I attended in November. I should have made that more clear.

  5. Andy I have attempted to find the original data source, as you did. Since this data is obviously corrupted and un-sourced, I don't believe it should be used even for a data viz contest even to point out how bad pie charts are. I agree pie charts are 'bad' but un-sourced data is worse, and not worth any of our time.

    I'll play next time.


    1. Shawn, I posted a link to the data I compiled. It's kind of the whole point that the data is messy and doesn't add up.

    2. I was more concerned with the non-source. I understand messy, but no source, and messy just not worth time.

      Happy New Year Andy!