Launch, grow, and unlock your career in data

March 5, 2013

Spirals vs. bars – Why does Nielsen makes things so hard for us?


I’m not exactly sure what to call this type of chart from Nielsen, so I’m going to stick with calling it a spiral chart.  It’s just plain awful. 

I understand the ranking, only because of the numbers, not the chart.  I’m guessing the colors are used so that you can follow them around the race track.  Wouldn’t a simple bar chart be so much better?



  1. Andy,

    I think the colors come from a "consistent" set of colors used in the report in which this chart appears. So each product category has the same color across many charts. But, as you state so plainly, the visual form is not useful or necessary to communicate the message (in fact, it makes the message obscure in several ways.

  2. Agree that a bar chart would be better. Sure, color consistency across a report is helpful (and these colors are part of the "offical" Nielsen template) but this chart not only obscures the data, it misrepresents it by not using a proper scale. The outer magenta (?) bar is roughly six times the length/circumference of the inner light green bar. I guess you're just supposed to look at the ending points and ignore everything else? The title is also a bit clunky, though admittedly it is not always easy to boil those down. Well, if nothing else the chart is visually arresting and maybe gets you to take a look. I haven't seen the rest of the report but certainly there are times when you want to mix it up a little so as to not fatigue your reader with a parade of identical looking charts.

  3. I've heard these called race track charts. Unlike the usual race tracks we actually race on, the starting points are not staggered to account for different conferences of different lanes.

    1. I think they're called "race track" charts because readers are in a hurry to get to the end ;)