Bad Data Visualizations

In everyday media such as magazines and newspapers, we are constantly bombarded with attractive graphics that attempt to catch our attention while displaying useful data and statistics. Unfortunately, even the best looking graphics can have major flaws. Below, we’ll explore some example graphics and try to find where they went wrong.

Bad Visualization Ex1


The intention of the map in the above graphic is to visualize the statistic, “29% Millennials (Born after 1980).” Firstly, it is difficult to understand what this statistic means. It could use some additional context or explanation. Moving to the map of the image, the bottom of the bottom of the map is filled in proportionally to statistic, but there is no reason to use a US map since the location where the map is filled in does not relate to the statistic at all. This map misleads people into thinking the that millennials live in the south, and therefore poorly implements the usage of self-representing images.


Bad Visualization Ex2


At first glance, this chart is confusing because the percentages do not appear to match the relative sizes of the chart segments. For example, when seeing a percentage such as 93%, you would expect its corresponding segment to fill 93% of the chart. This graphic could have been better implemented using a different type of visualization for the statistics. Additionally, the graphic should have provided additional data or further explanation to help the viewer understand the importance of social media marketing, as was expected from the title.

Bad Visualizations and (Hopefully Not) You

Which Countries Are The Most Successful At The World Cup

The above graphic fails to be a successful (or particularly useful) visualization on multiple accounts. On one hand, it is labeled properly at the top (we know what the overall intent of the graph is) and color coordination is generally straightforward (one type of color per continent represented). But yet this visualization still is a lot to digest and overall quite unclear. For one, there is no real reason that each individual country needs to be connected between one round to the next. All this does is muddy up the space provided. As well, other than general labels for continent, trying to track individual country’s progression is nearly impossible. One would assume that the two different shades for each color might represent region or some sort of grouping for countries, but it appears arbitrary.

This graphic appears to be straightforward at first glance, but upon closer inspection it’s clear to see that it’s overly complicated without much justification. Not only is the general sentiment of climate change displayed by country on top of a map of the world, each one of those has a three-dimensional pie chart to show the full breadth of opinions on the subject. Not only that, but the actual depth of each graph also represents a whole other criteria concerning the ratio of individuals who were and weren’t certain. Especially from the angle chosen, this graph is legible but only after careful examination.