Mexico Oil Spill - an infographic

If nothing else, pretty pictures make us keep looking:

This infographic is courtesy of our friends at FastCompany.
(click for a larger version)
You can see from the Fast Company article (and the boat and dots bit at the bottom of the picture) that the frightening fact is that in 40 days, the spill will have released more oil than the Exxon Vladez catastrophe on the 24th of March 1989.

Does the infographic do a good job of bringing clarity?

I think the picture itself has a higher stickiness than simply reading the facts would have, (especially if they were presented in a bullet list), and getting the information read at all is a big step towards clarity.

I'm less keen on the cirles for representing relative size. We are not as good at understanding relative size from circle charts as we are at interpreting linear information like bar charts. It's certainly a step in the right direction, given that there are fewer data points to have to compare against each other, but I think the circles' most redeeming feature is that they're an aesthetically pleasing graphic design element. Not as wild about them for getting information across...

Here's another (quite a bit worse) example of circles' dubious data-clarity properties from a previous ClarityRules post: Do Circles Suck?

The data represented in this chart are average US consumer spending numbers. (click for a bigger version)

For me, bar charts are still the best for comparing linear data to show if one thing is bigger than another.

Garr Reynolds does a nice job of showing where a bar chart (or perhaps no chart) can be the best way to show comparative magnitude data:


You can see his excellent blog post on what he calls the 'signal to noise' ratio in charts here.

Clarity Rule: Pick the right sort of chart for the data

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