Misleading graphs are a plague. People are bad enough at understanding data and statistics already; any publication has a responsibility to use graphs that accurately display what they’re talking about. Getting the reader’s attention matters— but only if they can actually understand what they’re looking at, says Edward Luka
, Mechanical/Aerospace Engineering Undergrad at Boston University.
Photo: Getty The field of data visualization has become a tussle between accuracy and beauty.
In one corner, designers say that data is fungible as long as the presentation is eye-catching. In the other corner, statisticians argue that clarity should rarely be sacrificed in the name of novelty or entertainment.
The latest AIGA Design Census
is a vivid illustration of this skirmish. Published by the oldest and largest professional design organization in the US, the report—based on an industry survey—contains some valuable insights about the country’s creative sector, but some argue that the findings are obscured by the report’s “very bad” data visualization...Antony Unwin
, professor of computational statistics and data analysis at the University of Augsburg says, “it’s very disappointing. I would expect something better from such an august body.” Asked how he might fix some of the more perplexing graphics, Unwin decries, “there’s nothing I can ask them because we’re on different planets.”Accurat,
the design firm that developed the graphs for the AIGA Design Census, says that its concern is winning the audience’s attention—even to the point of initially puzzling them. “I feel there’s a value in creating a dynamic presentation of data because capturing the attention of the audience is as important as communicating the data properly,” explains Gabriele Rossi
, Accurat’s co-founder...Mag Men:
Fifty Years of Making Magazines In the new book Mag Men: Fifty Years of Making Magazines
(Columbia University Press), Holmes describes toeing the line:From time to time I overstepped the mark and illustration got in the way of the numbers. All I wanted to do was help people become interested in the subject of the articles. I spent a lot of time talking to the writers, who helpfully fed me metaphors that I could work into the charts. If I could get readers to smile, I was at least halfway to helping them understand. After a few years, I felt that perhaps some of the charts had gone too far, so I calmed the illustration down a bit. That led to another round of critical mail: ‘So now we are back to boring charts again?’ A funny thing: after many years of changes in style, I still get requests for the lighter touch I’d used at Time (I’m happy to oblige). The point is the same as it always was—to engage readers.Read more...