Skip to content

Bad graph

Dan Goldstein points us to this:

Screen shot 2011-07-05 at 5.46.29 PM.png

It’s a good infographic–it grabs the reader’s eye (see discussion here), no?

P.S. The above remark is not meant as a dig at infographics. On the contrary, I am sincerely saying that a graph that violates all statistical principles and does not do a good job at displaying data, can still be valuable and useful as a data graphic. For this infographic, the numbers are used as ornamentation to attract the viewer, just as one might use a cartoon or a dramatic photo image.

P.P.S. At Hadley’s suggestion (see comment below), I’ve changed all uses of “infovis” above to “infographic.”


  1. derek says:

    I believe that a graph that violates graph principles like that is not a graph, and I think it’s actively bad that non-graph objects should be used for eye-catching and trust-building. It leeches off the genuine product, and cheapens the value of the genuine product by doing so, like an insect that lacks a sting, but flashes the yellow and black stripes anyway. People like to see a graph, because they think they’re about to be informed by one. (if people didn’t like to see– or didn’t trust– graphs, advertisers wouldn’t use graph-like objects for propaganda)

    It’s like a label saying “science proves!”. If enough such posters are produced, claiming things that science doesn’t prove at all, eventually you get cynical about actual science.

  2. It might be a good infoGRAPHIC, but I sincerely doubt it’s good infoVIS.

  3. Wayne says:

    Andrew, I don’t think this is an infographic in the the fullest sense. Technically, it’s attempting to draw your attention to two numbers and make them interesting to most of us who simply wouldn’t care about them. (“Look, we sell more papers!”) So you could technically say its an infographic, but I think it’s an extreme case for several reasons, including that it’s only two (close-together) numbers which really doesn’t need much visualization. The graphic “visualization” part of the ad is really just visual bling in this case, like an English word in a Japanese ad, or a kanji character in an English ad.

  4. Jared says:

    IMO, those disproportionate bars make it a bad info-anything. Seems to me that the only reason those two bars are there is to distort the two numbers above them. Maybe good marketing, but that’s all.

  5. Infographics are usually primarily judged by whether or not they’re good art. This isn’t good art.