Worst graph design ever?

Yesterday, I came across a graphic which I believe to be possibly the worst graph I have ever seen. I’ve seen some stinkers but this has cleared out the room. Now hold your nose…

It comes from a book titled “The Little Book of Shocking Global Facts“. I’m sure I won’t be the first to offer it the alternate title of “Little Book of Shocking Graphs”. Interestingly the tag line on this article describes it as a “new book of astounding charts and stats” which does work on an unintended level.

Accompanying this are many other examples of bad practice in visualisation design – the fundamental purpose of which, let’s remember, is to effectively communicate information about a subject.

It is almost impossible to know where to start in critiquing a design like, so many are its faults. At best they are bad album art.

I discussed in a previous post how it is important to maintain balance and consideration when commenting on the work of designers trying to produce visualisation designs – often they contain flaws but have good intent. This is not one of them. Furthermore, the purpose and intention behind this book, which is to inform and engage people about significant and important global issues, deserves so much more than what has been produced. I think it is somewhat irresponsible of the publishers to have commissioned or approved the work that has been delivered here.

[Edit: coincidentally I've just seen that Andrew at Infosthetics has also published a post about this topic, as has Nicholas Felton]

17 Comments

Russian SphinxJuly 14th, 2010 at 11:10 am

I also did disgusting chart. I enjoy calculating but I know almost nothing about graphics so results are here: http://russiansphinx.blogspot.com/2010/05/top-ten-languages-in-internet.html

BecsJuly 14th, 2010 at 11:55 am

I can only respond with this: http://imjustcreative.posterous.com/?sort=&search=infographic&x=0&y=0

Andy KirkJuly 14th, 2010 at 11:56 am

Hi Ms Sphinx, or should I call you Russian? Thanks for your comment. Based on what you say there I’d suggest you fall into the category of designer that I refer to here: http://www.visualisingdata.com/index.php/2010/07/creating-greater-awareness-of-design/. That is, somebody with an interest in communicating a message, who demonstrates good intent in trying to achieve this with effective visual displays, but acknowledges that they need to/are still learning their way through the best practice principles. All the best, Andy.

Russian SphinxJuly 14th, 2010 at 12:01 pm

I am also able to make normal visualizations :)

Tableau alien-believers map
http://russiansphinx.blogspot.com/2010/07/x-files.html

ManyEyes: Warning! Business Friendly Economies!
http://russiansphinx.blogspot.com/2010/06/warning-business-friendly-economies.html

Cute but not very advanced and informative: Smiling internet
http://russiansphinx.blogspot.com/2010/06/smiling-internet.html

Russian SphinxJuly 14th, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Hi Andy,

Yes it was my decision, I want “to learn in front of internet users”, I do not mind that many of my visualizations are not perfect, they can be even creepy for graphic desingers.

ManyEyes, Tableau Public are for people like me.

I also created map-resume, nothing to show off, simply Google map + my life:
http://russiansphinx.blogspot.com/2010/07/russian-sphinxs-resume.html

Andy KirkJuly 14th, 2010 at 12:41 pm

I wish you all the best Russian Sphinx, you sound like you’ve got the perfect attitude – if effort and persistence can be used as indicators of success, I’m sure you’ll do well.

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Jon PeltierJuly 14th, 2010 at 6:31 pm

Sometimes people take liberties with the data to make their graphics more attractive, but these are uninformative and ugly.

ChrisJuly 15th, 2010 at 3:11 pm

I don’t see the problem with designers doing what they want with type — as opposed to graphs — they aren’t misrepresenting anything. The above could have been designed in Times or Arial but it wouldn’t have looked interesting and no one would have bought the book…

Andy KirkJuly 15th, 2010 at 8:47 pm

Thanks for your comment Chris. I’ve no problem at all with creative, experimental type, but lets not forget the text is still serving the purpose of communication and if its as hard to read as that first example then after 180+ pages your eyes are going to be aching like hell. Times or Arial, as you say, would be a terrible option but there are endless creative, legible fonts that could be employed to appeal and communicate effectively.

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