From time to time, Seth Godin comes to visit our little field of information visualization, and I’m pleased to note that he is learning…

Today’s post, “How to make graphs that work” is remarkably better than “The three laws of great graphs” or “How to make a PowerPoint chart”. Today he warns  us against Excel and PowerPoint defaults and templates, invites us to tell a story, by following some simple rules and braking some other rules. It’s clearly a post on the safer side…

But I do have some remarks. Godin says:

when you show me something exactly like something I’ve seen a hundred times before, what do you expect me to do? Here’s a hint: Zzzzzz.

Right. That’s the problem with defaults and templates. But it’s a problem with all defaults and templates, no matter how good they are. So, what can you do? First choice: be relentlessly creative. Can you do it? Good for you, I can’t. Second choice: make your charts invisible. Show the message, not the chart.

Pie charts are spectacularly overrated. If you want to show me that four out of five dentists prefer Trident and that we need to target the fifth one, show me a picture of 5 dentists, but make one of them stand out. I’ll remember that.

I actually prefer the Presentation Zen style. If you have two slices, you just need a percentage. And be careful with the pictures you choose. In this case, I see a female dentist that doesn’t prefer Trident on Wednesdays…

You can animate, but only if you have a note from your doctor.

You can animate if there is a pattern inside (Hans Rosling, anyone?).

So, what do you think? Is Seth Goding ready for serious information visualization?