Monday, August 15, 2011

Pull out your crayon box

The visual display of quantitative information is a fascinating field.  Here's an example, borrowed from Andrew Gelman's blog, Statistical Modeling, Causal Influence, and Social Science.

First, check out this chart showing the evolution of Crayola crayons colors over the decades.  It's pretty satisfying, no?

But now look at this enhancement.  Doesn't it work much better?

Proving what?  Perhaps that the context for the information provides clues as to the relative effectiveness of various visual displays.


Anonymous said...

There is a lesson here for hospital people, for instance quality improvement staff trying to display graphs or charts for impatient board or medical exec committee members, who may have little idea what they are looking at. You have one chance to get their attention and therefore effect change - if they throw it down in disgust, you're lost. (I have actually seen this happen).

nonlocal MD

Rees said...

The fan distribution of the colors is more aesthetically pleasing, but you lose the information about what year the split was made. I would argue that cutting information at the expense of making a “pretty” image depends on both your audience and the importance of the removed data.

Paul Levy said...

Sorry, I clipped off the year information. It was on the lower right.

jonmcrawford said...

Agree with Rees, despite the year info being there, if you're going to make comparisons with this data you would be better off with the first version.

Paul Levy said...

Depends if you are a left brain or right brain kind of person, I think!