Kaiser points to this infoviz from MIT’s Technology Review:
What makes the designer want to tilt the reader’s head?
This chart is unreadable. It also fails the self-sufficiency test. All 13 data points are printed onto the chart. You really don’t need the axis, and the gridlines.
A further design flaw is the use of signposts. Our eyes are drawn to the hexagons containing the brand icons but the data is at the other end of the signpost, where it is planted on the surface!
Here is a sketch of something not as cute:
I [Kaiser] expressed time as years . . . The mobile-related entities are labelled red. The dots could be replaced by the hexagonal brand icons.
I agree with all of Kaiser’s criticisms, and I agree that his graph is, from the statistical perspective, a zillion times better than what was published. On the other hand, unusual images can get attention. Recall the famous/notorious clock plot from Florence Nightingale. This is why I’ve moved to the idea of accepting both styles. Maybe Technology Review could feature their arty graph, but then when the reader clicks on it, they go straight to a statistical graph. And then another click could go to a spreadsheet with the raw data (and as much metadata as needed).
I like the lines in Kaiser’s graph. Strictly speaking, the points convey all the information, but the lines indicate growth, which is what it’s all about.
P.S. On the details, I think Kaiser’s graph could be better. I’d like to see labels on all the points; one option would be to put the y-axis on a log scale so it will all be more readable. Also, then the straight lines on log scale will correspond to exponential growth, which might be more realistic than linear for most of the data. He could also play around with having the x-axis be absolute time rather than relative time, so that we could see when each platform started. (Recall also one of our core principles of graphics, which is that there’s no need to limit ourselves to a single display.)