Desecration of valuable real estate

Malecki asks:

Is this the worst infographic ever to appear in NYT? USA Today is not something to aspire to.

To connect to some of our recent themes, I agree this is a pretty horrible data display. But it’s not bad as a series of images. Considering the competition to be a cartoon or series of photos, these images aren’t so bad.

One issue, I think, is that designers get credit for creativity and originality (unusual color combinations! Histogram bars shaped like mosques!) , which is often the opposite of what we want in a clear graph. It’s Martin Amis vs. George Orwell all over again.

3 thoughts on “Desecration of valuable real estate

  1. Andrew,

    "Considering the competition to be a cartoon or series of photos, these images aren't so bad."

    Good photojournalism can do an excellent job providing certain kinds of information like how a situation feels to those on the ground. Likewise a cartoon can be a powerful and pithy form of news analysis.

    By comparison, a bad graph (like a bad study) does double damage. It not only misinforms but it leaves readers with the impression that they know more than they actually do.

    In this case, it looks like the NYT used illustrations from "How to Lie with Statistics" and went south from there.

    There's the "View of the U.S." where the lower the icon is, the higher its approval. The "U.S. Pakistan Policy" where the scrolls are arranged so you can't really compare their sizes (I initially thought they were going for some depth effect). The "Greatest Threat" which takes Huff's height/volume examples to the next level by using images of different shapes and densities.

    While they don't quite match this (, these graphs may be the worst we've seen from a major paper in recent memory.

  2. The "Earthquake Aid" graphs (especially the "Generate Muslim Support" one)are hilariously bad and misleading, though. They look like a modified pie chart, but they've actually just overlayed circles on top of one another. You look at it and you naturally assume that since the vast majority of the area is red, that the dominant response was "Disagree". In fact, the reverse is true.

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