The clarity (and risk) of graphs

You might not agree with something you read on the front page of the Wall Street Journal or The New York Times, but at least you understand it. There’s simply no way a sentence like this would make it through the editing process: “Are we not pure? “No, sir!” Panama’s moody Noriega brags. “It is garbage!” Irony dooms a man—a prisoner up to new era.”

And yet, major publications continue to post graphs and charts that are nonsensical and redundant at the same time.

Following their lead, we’re busy putting similar junk in our presentations and brochures as well.

Consider this one from a recent issue of the Times. (click to enlarge)

Why are the months on the vertical axis? Why is it symmetrical, repeating all the information?

Most important… what is it trying to say?

If you don’t know what you’re trying to say, not saying it with a graph is a good way to hide.