March 12, 2010 2

FlowingData Challenge 2: Nutrition vs Subsidies

By in Experiments in Info Design

I’m going to ignore the blatant flaws in logic that go into the below chart and focus on the redesign challenged here.  There are two inherent problems with using 3-dimensional surfaces like spheres or pyramids for comparing data.  First, humans have a more difficult time understanding the magnitude of a change in volume than they do of area length.  Second, as it appears in this case, the height of the pyramid is used to determine the delineations instead of the volume, meaning the chart is inaccurate in the first place.  While mine may not be as cute, it is certainly more accurate and (hopefully) easier to understand.


Redesign (I tried to keep it simple):



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2 Responses to “FlowingData Challenge 2: Nutrition vs Subsidies”

  1. Jon Peltier says:

    Hi Matt –

    Bar charts are a very effective way to show this data, but not because human cognition is good at scaling area to value. Area is not much better than volume. Humans are good at scaling lengths to value, though, and the bars have lengths proportional to their encoded values (with a constant thickness).

  2. Matt says:

    You’re absolutely right! Shows me what I get for trying to post late on a Friday night!

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