Tag: barchart

7 Reasons You Should Use Dot Graphs, by Maarten Lambrechts

7 Reasons You Should Use Dot Graphs, by Maarten Lambrechts

In my data visualization courses, I often refer to the hierarchy of visual encoding proposed by Cleveland and McGill. In their 1984 paper, Cleveland and McGill proposed the table below, demonstrating to what extent different visual encodings of data allow readers of data visualizations to accurately assess differences between data values.

DOI: 10.2307/2288400

Since then, this table has been used and copied by many data visualization experts, and adapted to more visually appealing layouts. Like this one by Alberto Cairo, referred to in a blog by Maarten Lambrechts:

Via http://www.thefunctionalart.com/

Now, this brings me to the point of this current blog, in which I want to share an older post by Maarten Lambrechts. I came across Maarten’s post only yesterday, but it touches on many topics and content that I’ve covered earlier on my own website or during my courses. It’s mainly about the relative effectiveness and efficiency of using dots/points in data visualizations.

Basically, dots are often the most accurate and to the point (pun intended). With the latter, I mean in terms of inkt used, dots/points are more efficient than bars, or as Maarten says:

Points go beyond where lines and bars stop. Sounds weird, especially for those who remember from their math classes that a line is an infinite collection of points. But in visualization, points can do so much more then lines. Here are seven reasons why you should use more dot graphs, with some examples.


Maarten touches on the research of Cleveland and McGill, on a PLOS article advocating avoiding bars for continuous data, and on how to redesign charts to make use of more efficiënt dot/point encodings. I really loved this one redesign example Maarten shares. Unfortunately, it is in Dutch, but both graphs show pretty much the same data, though the simpler one better communicates the main message.

Do have a look at the rest of Maarten’s original blog post. I love how he ends it with some practical advice: A nice lookup table for those looking how to efficiently use points/dots to represent their n-dimensional data:

  • For comparisons of a single dimension across many categories: 1-dimensional scatterplot.
  • For detecting of skewed or bimodal distributions in 2 variables: connect 1-dimensional scatterplots (slopegraphs)
  • For showing relationships between 2 variables: 2-dimensional scatterplots.
  • For representing 4-dimensional data (3 numeric, 1 categorical or 4 numerical): bubble charts. Can also be used for 3 numerical dimensions or 2 numeric and 1 categorical value.
  • For representing 4-dimensional data +  time: animated bubble chart (aka Rosling-graph)
18 Pitfalls of Data Visualization

18 Pitfalls of Data Visualization

Maarten Lambrechts is a data journalist I closely follow online, with great delight. Recently, he shared on Twitter his slidedeck on the 18 most common data visualization pitfalls. You will probably already be familiar with most, but some (like #14) were new to me:

  1. Save pies for dessert
  2. Don’t cut bars
  3. Don’t cut time axes
  4. Label directly
  5. Use colors deliberately
  6. Avoid chart junk
  7. Scale circles by area
  8. Avoid double axes
  9. Correlation is no causality
  10. Don’t do 3D
  11. Sort on the data
  12. Tell the story
  13. 1 chart, 1 message
  14. Common scales on small mult’s
  15. #Endrainbow
  16. Normalise data on maps
  17. Sometimes best map is no map
  18. All maps lie

Even though most of these 18 rules below seem quite obvious, even the European Commissions seems to break them every now and then:

Can you spot what’s wrong with this graph?

What to consider when choosing colors for data visualization, by DataWrapper.de

What to consider when choosing colors for data visualization, by DataWrapper.de

Lisa Charlotte Rost of DataWrapper often writes about data visualization and lately she has focused on the (im)proper use of color in visualization. In this recent blog, she gives a bunch of great tips and best practices, some of which I copied below:

color in data vis advice
Gradient colors can be great to show a pattern but, for categorical data, it is often easier to highlight the most important values with colored bars, positions (like in a dot plot) or even areas. [https://blog.datawrapper.de/colors/]
color in data vis advice
If you need more than seven colors in a chart, consider using another chart type or to group categories together. [https://blog.datawrapper.de/colors/]
color in data vis advice
Consider using the same color for the same variables, but do differentiate between categories, even across graphics. [https://blog.datawrapper.de/colors/]
color in data vis advice
Using grey for less important elements in your chart makes your highlight colors (which should be reserved for your most important data points) stick out even more.  [https://blog.datawrapper.de/colors/]
color in data vis advice
Consider color-blind people. There are many different types of color blindness: Use an online tool or Datawrapper’s automatic colorblind-check. [https://blog.datawrapper.de/colors/]
 You can find additional useful tips in the original DataWrapper blog.

The Dataviz Project: Find just the right visualization

The Dataviz Project: Find just the right visualization

Do you have a bunch of data but you can’t seem to figure out how to display it? Or looking for that one specific visualization of which you can’t remember the name?

www.datavizproject.com provides a most comprehensive overview of all the different ways to visualize your data. You can sort all options by Family, Input, Function, and Shape to find that one dataviz that best conveys your message.

datavizproject overview

Update: look at some of these other repositories here or here.