Some ideas sound good in your head, but they are just bad. This is one of them. After seeing some very cool glyph visuals, I started to wonder, why not simply display different values overlaid on top of each other in the form of concentric circles?
I was thinking in terms of some geometric glyph visual I had seen where the shapes indicated different aspects of movies; Cost, US Gross, International Gross. In this visual, each would be represented by a concentric circle whose area was proportional to the figure.
For example, if we were to assign colors to the columns:
- Cost = Red
- US Gross = Dark Green
- International Gross = Light Green
Then a movie which cost little to make, did well internationally and phenomenally within the US might look like:
A movie which did phenomenal internationally, well enough in the US and cost little to make might look like:
An expensive and total flop might look like:
Sounded kind of logical, right? Well, not so much. Here’s what an analysis of 100 movies might look like:
It looks as if a giant ran amuck in Santa’s workshop and squashed all 100 of the elves. It actually gives me a headache and I think I might have violated most of the rules of data visualization.
- I’m pretty sure Cythia Brewer would never choose this palette.
- Circles are not great for conveying proportion. I understand tall. I understand fat. I have no such intuitive understanding of a shape whose area is Pi * r^2.
- There are no labels. Of course, I don’t think I will bother, unless I decide to incorporate into Dex as a joke. A super obnoxious visual folks can use to give really bad presentations.
- The overlaying of concentric circles robs the outer circle’s sense of proportion. The brain just doesn’t interpret this correctly.
- Given 2 circles of equal size, 1 will be entirely eclipsed. Given 3, 2 will be eclipsed. I am pretty sure that Tufte would say that sucks and probably give me the finger.
Anyway, maybe this is why I start with great working visuals from other folks and build upon them. So far, mine are horrible.
That’s it for now!