Saturday, October 5, 2013

Hiding data in a Harlequin PowerPoint chart

In his Make a Powerful Point blog on October 4th Gavin McMahon asked Are you chart smart? 3 stupid charting mistakes. The second mistake he showed was a Harlequin chart with unnecessary multiple colors (a different one for each bar) like in the costume shown above.

That vertical bar chart also had vertical captions, which are undesirable since they force your audience into tilting their heads sideways to read them, as is shown above in a painting. This posture is known as the Goren Lean (from Vincent D’Nofrio’s portrayal of Detective Robert Goren in the TV show Law and Order - Criminal Intent).  

PowerPoint has lots of options for making bad charts. An example is shown above. (Click on it to see a larger, clearer version). Data for it came from an August blog post. I’ve redone it using vertical bars, each both with a different color and texture, and a water droplet background (which looks more like a sponge). The vertical axis should be labeled percent, but I left off that helpful detail. I also left off the title that identified the data and source. And, of course, the vertical captions are in the silly Comic Sans font.

A better version with horizontal bars and captions is shown above. You don’t have to lean to read it, and you can tell what it’s about.

The Harlequin image came from Wikimedia Commons. You can see other versions of the Goren Lean here.

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