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Even a good data display can sometimes be improved

When I first saw this graphic, I thought “boy, that’s great, sometimes the graphic practically makes itself.” Normally it’s hard to use lots of different colors to differentiate items of interest, because there’s usually not an intuitive mapping between color and item (e.g. for countries, or states, or whatever). But the colors of crayons, what could be more perfect? So this graphic seemed awesome. But, as they discovered after some experimentation at there is an even BETTER possibility here. Click the link to see.

Crayola Crayon colors by year


  1. andrewgelman says:

    As long as they still have "flesh," I'm happy.

  2. Tamas Papp says:

    I like the original (grid) better because the time axis is informative. For example, I learned how many crayon colors my parents had when they were young.

  3. pnprice says:

    Tamas, the time axis is informative in the "improved" version too, it's just radial rather than cartesian. I think the suggested improvement really is an improvement, since it devotes more area to the recent years, which need it because there are so many more colors now.

  4. John Mashey says:

    That's a delightful use of charts and without a doubt, a fine example where the colors require no intuition.
    it reminds me a bit of some other recent examples:

    John N-G has a very nice graphi on drought in Texas, the 2nd chart is a

    An improvement might be to apply Nick Stokes’ mouseover-highlighter for spaghetti graphs:

    And one wonders if mouseovers might be used to display statistical parameters at selected points, to avoid over-cluttering the base displays and still allow easy access.

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