Sometimes you just need a pie

Take a look at this picture.  What’s the first thing that you do?  Maybe you try answering the question or maybe you’re like me and you add up those four percentages to check that they sum to one hundred.  If you’re in that second group, then you’re hiding your true feelings.  Because I reckon that what you’re feeling deep down is that the visual shouldn’t be a histogram.  It should be a pie chart!

Call me a grumpy old man but I have a strong aversion to inappropriate graphical representations.  I hate seeing (as well as histograms that should be pie charts):

  • line graphs that should be histograms
  • histograms that should be line graphs
  • multiple series histograms wth separate columns that would be better stacked
  • line graphs over time with the x-axis not to scale (normally as a result of creating a line graph in Excel rather than an x-y graph)
  • graphs where variation between columns has been emphasised by not starting the y-axis at zero
  • two different graphs in the same place with one y-axis on the left and another on the right – what’s all that about?

I also don’t like untidy graphs.  I like to see:

  • a title at the top
  • clearly labelled x and y axes, including units of measurement
  • well chosen, complimentary colours
  • on line graphs, lines thick enough and data points big enough to see
  • x-axis labels either horizontal or vertical – not slanted

And I’m going with the audience on this one.  C.

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