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June 2, 2014

Makeover Monday: The Face Pie - Taking an Analogy Too Far


Edward Tufte likes to say "the only worse design than a pie chart is several of them." Today's makeover takes this even one step farther. Someone at Pew Research decided that since the topic of their chart was "The Changing Face of America" that they should uses faces instead of pies.

Humans are poor at judging angles in a pie. I can't even imagine how bad we are at judging angles in obscure shapes. Also, the purpose of this graphic is to show change. It’s very difficult to understand trends in a series of face pies. I would present the data as a line chart like this:


Now it’s much, much easier to see the changing demographics of the United States. Keep it simple people!


  1. The chart originally appeared in a Wall Street Journal article, not a Pew Research Center post. Here's the original from Pew Research: . WSJ made the mistake of head-style pie charts, not Pew Research

    1. Thanks for clarifying! I was going by the source indicated on the image.

    2. The source line typically indicates where the data or content is from, not the graphic. I know Pew Research Center slugs their graphics with their name at the bottom, similar to a photo credit, not as a source.