May 25, 2013

Bar charts are boring: a redesign

At eagerpies, a redesign of a ‘boring bar chart’ according to graphic design principles, with steps including

  • “color exercises an undeniable psychological attraction… It captures and holds attention, multiplies the number of readers, assures better retention of the information and , in short, increases the scope of the message.”
  • We can add further perspicacity to the components of our pie by applying the Japanese concept of Ma. Ma represents space or a pause. It is, as Alan Fletcher describes, “the interval which gives shape to the whole”.
  • The ability to perceive motion was fundamental to our paleolithic survival as saber tooth tigers ate those of us who didn’t see them coming.  By adding motion to our graphic we can capitalize on the base human response to ensure attention is directed where it is most desired.

And if you think the result is going to be a 3D exploded pie chart, you aren’t cynical enough.

A landmark in the (specialised) field of quantitative data visualisation satire.


Thomas Lumley (@tslumley) is Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Auckland. His research interests include semiparametric models, survey sampling, statistical computing, foundations of statistics, and whatever methodological problems his medical collaborators come up with. He also blogs at Biased and Inefficient See all posts by Thomas Lumley »


  • avatar
    Richard Penny

    You left off the best? part. And I quote

    “Few would disagree with the obvious superiority of this new chart. What this makes clear is that with a little extra effort on our part we can turn a vapid visual into a gripping graph.”

    Obviously we are the few!

    5 years ago

    • avatar
      NIck Cox

      Original was punning on Stephen Few’s surname. See if you are not familiar with Few’s combative style. Few’s disregard for infographics and the like is often matched by the views of more statistical people.

      5 years ago

      • avatar
        Thomas Lumley

        I hadn’t noticed the pun (I must be slipping), but I’ve read (and linked to) Few’s work. As you say, combative.

        5 years ago