Visualizing Data

This week we focused on the visualization of data (to be fair past weeks have been focused on visualization of data as well), especially in static picture summaries of data. In class we discussed the elements and qualities of good data visualization and how to display different types of data using different techniques and methods. We discussed what made the Minard Map arguably the best visual representation of data created. As Edward Tufte, the godfather of data visualization stated

“It may well be the best statistical graphic ever drawn.”


The main reason why the Minard Map is considered the be the best visual representation of data ever created is because it intuitively shows many elements of a data set in a concentrated format. The most important part is that the map is very intuitive and easy to understand. All it takes is one look at the map and a brief read of the explanation of it to fully understand all the information presented. It also gives a good summarized view of Napoleon’s campaign into Russia and shows the key data of his campaign. This map utilizes a great and unique format to show data in an easy to understand and intuitive way, by using a linear approach to the map it can be clearly be seen that it is moving through time. Overall it is a great example of data visualization because the map fits a lot of important information into a very intuitive easy to understand format.

Since we touched on the topic of the GREATEST statistical graph ever created, it would only be fair if we talked about the other end of the spectrum, the WORST statistical graph ever created. As eloquently stated by Mr Tufte,

“This may well be the worst graphic ever to find its way into print.”


This graph literally has so many unnecessary details for not a lot of substantial information. The graph only has 5 unique data points and has unnecessary use of 3D shapes and 4 different types of colors.

At first glance it looks like the graph is trying to show 4 different data sets with one on top of the other, but upon closer examination you see that the colors are supposed to create a 3D effect in the graph. The worst thing about the 3D aspect is that it serves no purpose but to look “pretty” and truthfully, it doesn’t even serve that purpose. The 3D aspect adds nothing to the further understanding of what the graph is trying to show and is there as fluff.

The the top portion of the graph is a mirror image of the bottom portion of the graph, I can’t offer an explanation as to why they decided to mirror the already confusing enough graph. Mirroring the graph in this context serves no purpose because you already have the necessary information shown on the bottom of the graph, so there is no point other than to fill the space for them to mirror the graph.

Overall this graph is super confusing and not intuitive at all. It took me around 5 minutes just staring at this graph to comprehend what they were doing, but I still don’t understand what was going on through their minds when they decided to create this “masterpiece”.



One Reply to “Visualizing Data”

  1. I really liked your insightful comments on how the second graph is “graph is super confusing and not intuitive at all”. However, i think this may have to do with the fact that the link to the graph shows a really pixelated low quality image.

Leave a Reply