This week we published Versta Research’s quarterly newsletter with a feature article entitled “How to Design an Excellent Chart.” It addresses one critical piece of turning research data into compelling stories by focusing on the process of data visualization. For us, that process involves five steps:
Archive for the ‘Charts and Data Visualization’ Category
An extremely useful chart rarely used by market research professionals is a mekko chart, sometimes referred to as a marimekko chart. It is a stacked bar chart, but (1) the width of the bars varies in a meaningful way and (2) they are lined up next to each other. Usually the bars vary in width according to market share. This means that the surface area of the chart represents the total market, and each component of the chart is proportional to its share of the total market.
Here is an example: (more…)
The New York Times Magazine runs a weekly feature called “Who Made That?” It provides a history on the origins of oddities like fly swatters, soy-sauce dispensers, clothespins, Kraft Singles, and … pie charts. They attribute it to one William Playfair, a Scottish engineer who created and published a pie chart in 1801. He is also presumed to have invented the bar chart fifteen years earlier.
Alas, the pie chart has taken a beating in recent years for being one of the worst visualizations of statistical data. Edward Tufte in The Visual Display of Quantitative Information has this to say:
I’m always inspired by this video from Vi Hart, who describes herself as a “mathemusician.” She doodles and draws, finds numeric patterns and insights as she does it, and weaves interesting (and funny) stories around those insights.
The New York Times is one of the few organizations trying to push our industry further in developing better data presentation and visualization techniques. Sometimes they do a good job, introducing rich, informative, engaging, and interactive charts that would make even Edward Tufte, the contemporary pioneer in data visualization, proud. Sometimes they do a not-so-good job; and indeed we can learn from that as well.
Here is a chart they printed several weeks ago on the op-ed page:
How do you make a beautiful, elegant, intuitive, and useful chart showing changes in market share over time? In R. That always seems to be the answer these days when it comes to data visualization as well as data analysis. It is the reason that we at Versta Research are in the midst of an intensive course of training and retraining in R. Here is just one beautiful example of what R can do. (more…)
We came across these images in a series of humorous montages that professionals had created about what they do. This one was created by Jason Sullivan:
We came across this chart from Invisible Children, the group that produced the Kony 2012 video. It shows the organization’s expenditures by category. It is a poorly designed chart for three reasons:
1. The pieces of the doughnut are not correctly proportional. For some reason, the arc widths were compressed for some categories (like Media & Film Creation) distorting the true size of the relationships among categories.
2. Information is squeezed onto the chart in such a way that some of it is unreadable. Even if you click on the chart to get a full-sized image, it is difficult to discern the numbers for the Media & Film Creation category.
3. Percentages are shown to two decimal places, which is unimportant. Why add extra numbers if they don’t convey extra information?
A better way to create the chart is shown below. It is less snazzy. But it shows the important data (the relative sizes of each expense category) accurately.
Even so, this chart is probably not the best choice, either. Pie charts are excellent for showing relative proportions of the whole, but once you have more than four our five slices, it is usually too much information for this type of chart, and your brain does not really process those relative proportions. (more…)
Coincidentally in the same week that Versta Research published its winter newsletter on Turning Data into Stories: A How-To Guide, last week’s AMA event in Chicago was a market research panel focused on telling stories with data. The presentations were solid, with lots of helpful ideas. But there was also a misguided idea working its way through the room, worthy of spirited debate, if only we had more time. It is the idea, as one panelist put it, that “clients don’t care about numbers.” (more…)
Given how common mapping capabilities have become via the Internet and smartphones, it is surprising that we don’t see more geographic mapping in market research. Researchers nearly always look at customer demographics, and a key component of a person’s demographic profile is where he or she lives. This data is far more compelling if you can present it visually with maps.
It does not take super fancy (and expensive) mapping software or specialized firms to create accurate, useful, and compelling maps from market research data. We recently created maps for a client showing where in a three-county region their best customers lived. Everything we used to make these maps was free and publicly available for download on the Internet. Here are the steps we used: (more…)