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Are Excel Charts Hurting Your Business? 10 Mistakes You Should Avoid.

Are Excel charts, and Excel in general, a commodity, with no competitive advantage? Only if you want it to. Why? Because a vast majority of users:

Have the data analysis skills of a toddler (or less);
Can’t go beyond chart defaults;
Functions? They know how to click the SUM() button;
Don’t know what a dynamic chart is;
Think pivot tables are too complex;
VBA? No […]

Charts: Monthly Unemployment Rates by State 1976-2009

Here are two ways to display a relatively large dataset, montly unemployment rates by state since 1976. The first one, above, is perfect to see the overall patterns, the range from the lowest to the highest, the outliers and the slopes. An interactive version would allow the user to highlight specific series.

A small-multiple version allows the user to focus […]

Just Another Stupid Bar Chart

Human creativity is virtually limitless. But:

You don’t vary color by data point.
You don’t force the eyes to a pendular movement if you can avoid it.
You don’t use a legend when you can use axis labels.
You can’t have a residual category that large.

Bloggers don’t seem to learn, even with a good teacher.

(Bar chart published in the ReadWriteWeb)

Will you Help Me Write a Data Visualization E-Book (and Win a Free Copy)?

I’m writing an e-book, kind of “101 Data Visualization Questions You Were Afraid to Ask”, and I’d really appreciate your help. You just have to submit your data visualization question(s) using the contact form on the right (feel free to add additional suggestions or comments). The best 101 messages win a free copy of the e-book. And there may […]

Better Charts for Business: When Business Doesn’t Care

Most managers don’t care about a better visualization of business data. As a reader puts it:
Short of locking management in a room with Tufte and Few, how do I sell management on the value of seeing things differently?
Instead of trying to sell, let’s see why the aren’t buying. Here are some reasons.
Good Charts Are For Middle-Management
Making sense of a […]

Inconsequential Foreplay

Nathan discusses this chart. He says:
I know a lot of you don’t like bubbles in your viz, but this one works for me.
Jon Peltier, in the comments, argues that:
Sets of bars would have been more effective.
Tim adds the definitive argument:
“Always using bar charts is like always using missionary position. It might be more practical, but it gets boring!”
OK, let’s […]

Excel Charts: If It Isn’t Broken…

I humbly accept our business visualization reality: 90% of all business charts are created in Excel and most business users are unwilling to learn yet another application and go through all sorts of hassles (data management, compatibility issues, file sharing) just because a different product offers a bigger chart gallery and some obscure defaults no one cares about (except […]

Here's How the Unemployment Rate Sounds Like

Do you want to know how the unemployment rate sounds like? Copy this string:

65536,32768,16384,16384,16384,4096,

4096,2048,1024,1024,256,128,64,16,4,2

and paste it into here (right-click, past).

Now the Dow Jones Index:

2,4,4,2,2,32,32,16,64,1024,2048,4096,

16384,65536,32768,16384

All together now:

65538,32772,16388,16386,16386,

4128,4128,2064,1088,1024,2304,

4224,16448,65552,32772,16386

This is fun.

(Big gloomy smile.)

By |April 23rd, 2009|Design|7 Comments|

God and Moses? The Differences Between Edward Tufte and Stephen Few

I have a confession to make: my past is paved with chart-making sins, including some capital ones (yes, 3D pie charts, too). But years ago I saw the light in Edward Tufte’s The Visual Display of Quantitative Information and since then I’ve been avoiding eye-candy temptations. Now I do my best to pursuit the path of data visualization virtue.
Every […]

Sub-Prime Charts: Should Data Visualization Be Boring?

In a recent article for the New York Times, Paul Krugman, the 2008 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, writes:
“The banking industry that emerged from that collapse [the Great Depression] was tightly regulated, far less colorful than it had been before the Depression, and far less lucrative for those who ran it. Banking became boring, partly because bankers […]

By |April 19th, 2009|Context|7 Comments|