Short makes long

Thursday, May 30th, 2013 - by Bella

Poor tyres brake poorly. And need more fuel. Says the ADAC, the German motoring club. And has drawn a picture. With car and road markings. So you can see the differences in braking. Good idea. Measured with things you know.

Quelle: ADAC Motorwelt 4/2013, Seite 42.
Source: magazine from the ADAC 4/2013, page 42.

Oops! Something funny here. Look out of the window. Pretty short, such a car. Pretty long, such a line. How long, says the minister of transport:

On motorways 6 meters line and 12 meters gap.
Otherwise 4 meters line and 8 meters gap.
Within the city 3 meters line and 6 meters gap.

The driver in the graphic drives 80 kilometers per hour. So he better be driving on a country road. For a difference in braking distance of 3 meters the graphic draws about 5 lines and 5 gaps. 5 x 4 plus 5 x 8 is 60 meters.

To measure with things you know is good. But then you have to draw with it.


Wednesday, May 15th, 2013 - by Bella

It is getting more and more difficult to fly. For example in Zurich.

Abflugtafel im Flughafen Zürich
Departure screen at the airport Zurich.

Red means: Go to gate. Green means: Boarding. Funny. Imagine you are in a hurry. But not yet at the gate. Then you better start running. Until the face is red. Because you see green. And walk normally if you see red. Right?

Wannabe Sparklines 2.0

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013 - by Bella

I scolded the German newspaper “Handelsblatt”. Two years ago. Because it drew wannabe sparklines. That is scribbling that wants to look like sparklines. Have a look.

Source:, 2011–04–15 (then).

Now it is different. Have a look.

Source:, 2013–04–13.

No more scribbling. But still no sparkline. I keep an eye on it.

No pale scale

Monday, April 15th, 2013 - by Bella

Religion again. We had that last time. Often, such data is scaled like that. Have a look.

Data from the FASZ, 2013–03–10, page 22. Redesign: me. Scaled globally.

You might think scaling is fair. Because all the axes look the same. Same for different is rarely fair. You want to compare trends. Different ones. On different levels. Look at the people with no religion (in German: “religionslos”). Starting at zeropointsomething up to 11 percent. Which is much more than the muslims: starting at 13.1, growing up to 22.5 percent. But both look more or less alike.

This is better. Have a look.

The same, scaled comparably.

You calculate like this: What changes the most? In percent. That gets the full height. The rest gets less. In relation to the one that has changed the most. Like that you get them all in. More steep means more change. Less steep means less change. You read the magnitude from the numbers.

Share not shared

Saturday, March 30th, 2013 - by Bella

The German Sunday newspaper „Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung“ knows about the members of all religions. Back in 1900. Today. Between. Have a look.

Marktanteile der Religionen - Mitgliederentwicklung von 1900 bis 2012. Quelle: FASZ, 10.03.2013, Seite 22.
Source: FASZ, 2013–03–10, page 22.

Market share is written above the graphic. Share. But the graphic shows absolute numbers. One on top of the other. Did you realize it? Christians lose share. A little. Muslims win share. A lot. Other lose share. A whole lot.

Better show shares in a different way. For example like this. As a small multiple.

Marktanteile der Religionen als Small Multiple. Redesign: ich.
Redesign: me. No interim values. Scaled comparably.

Now you find in the graphic what is written above the graphic.

Oh! Rack.

Friday, March 15th, 2013 - by Bella

Oracle has painted: How satisfied are people with customer support? Have a look.


de gb nl intro sw sp it

Source: Oracle. Found at From myself as a collage, from Oracle as stripes.
Click to enlarge.

I am not satisfied. With the graphic.

The biggest element is always a number. Just like a headline. A headline tells us the most important point. Doesn’t work here. Because: The number always means something else. And what it means, is written next to it. Very small.

Have a look again.





Source: snipped by myself.

Funny: different percent can have the same size, bigger percent can be smaller than smaller percent.

Tart-ure III

Thursday, February 28th, 2013 - by Bella

The German newspaper “Die Welt” has baked yet again: triple pies with bites taken out. Have a look.

Source: “Die Welt”, 2013–01–17, page 13.

Have a look at the axes: ounces is weight. Tons also. Therefore the German gold in New York weighs as much as in Paris, Frankfurt and London. Therefore the position of the x-axis is the same as on the y-axis. Therefore the pies lie on a diagonal.

The French are supposed to give us back our gold. Everything. Therefore the grey eating frame is 0 %, thus not there.

In the real world London is still there, where it belongs. Same with Paris. In the “Welt”, Paris is half in London. This is because the same scale is used twice.

The “Welt” has already baked pies, that can amount up to 120 % and 165 %. This time it has baked pies that are able to do even more: absolute and relative, today and later, parts of several pies. Not yet complicated enough? Have a look where the circles start: in Frankfurt and Paris at 6 am, in New York at 10 am, in London at 3:20 pm.

Here is how you could say it, if you are in a hurry: „In New York, Frankfurt, London and Paris are 45 %, 31 %, 13 %, 11 % of the 3391 tons of gold altogether. In the year 2020 there shall be 37 %, 50 %, 13 %, 0 %.“


Friday, February 15th, 2013 - by Bella

We have ranted about annual reports – him and me. About those from E.ON, vodafone, Sparkasse Nürnberg, Telekom and Teambank. Because good was painted red because of the CI. Because time was to be read backwards. Because units changed between years. Because comparison was difficult, reading was difficult, understanding was difficult.

Nivea and Tesa did it better. Have a look.

Beiersdorf auf einen Blick - die Kennzahlen, 2008 (linke Spalte), 2009 (rechte Spalte). Quelle: Beiersdorf AG, Geschäftsbericht 2009.
Source: Beiersdorf AG, annual report 2009.

Time runs from left to right. How it is supposed to be.

Säulendiagramme: Umsatz Tesa in Mio. Euro, Betriebliches Ergebnis Tesa in Mio. EUro (EBIT). Quelle: Beiersdorf AG, Geschäftsbericht 2009.
Source: also there.

It can be seen that the EBIT is small. Because turnover and EBIT are scaled individually. Because the trend is supposed to be seen. And not the ratio.

Liniendiagramm: Entwicklung der Beiersdorf-Aktie und des Dax 2009; jeweils als relative Veränderung. Quelle: Beiersdorf AG, Geschäftsbericht 2009.
Source: also there.

It can be seen that the share performed worse than the DAX. Because of the index (that is no disappindex here).

Tortendiagramme: Umsatz Consumer nach Regionen in Prozent, Umsatz Tesa nach Regionen in Prozent. Quelle: Beiersdorf AG, Geschäftsbericht 2009.
Source: also there.

Even the Tesa-pie works here. Because: only 3 numbers. Because: labelled correctly. Because: big difference between Europe left and Europe right.

Brave. Because: this is the annual report 2009 – a bad year.

No more teeter-totter

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013 - by Bella

Mr. Bron’s teeter-totter again. They were supposed to show absolute numbers. They were supposed to show percent. At the same time. For many things at the same time. Man, woman, child. First class, second class, third class. Passengers, crew.

I have tried it like that: You read comparisons with relative numbers. On the same basis. Percent. Therefore, I take a graphic with filling levels. To analyze it. Aha – on the Titanic there was a rule to be observed: women, children, dogs first.

The Loss of the Titanic - Redesign als Grafische Tabelle. Von mir.
People on the Titanic. Data from here. Redesign: me.

You read details with absolute numbers. No percent. No need to take a graphic for that. One task, one graphic. One graphic, one task.

No downfall of the world

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013 - by Bella

Last year the downfall of the world was supposed to happen. It didn’t. But the Titanic fell down. Not last year, but one hundred years ago. Jan has painted graphics and charts about it. Last year. Mr. Bron did so, too. Not last year, but one hundred years ago. Have a look.

The Loss of the "Titanic." - The Results Analysed and Shown in a Special "Sphere" diagram. Quelle: Rendgen, S., Wiedemann, J., Information Graphics, Köln 2012, Seite 75.
Source: Rendgen, S., Wiedemann, J., Information Graphics, Cologne 2012, page 75.
Click to enlarge.

Mr. Bron has drawn teeter-totters. Two-colored. Black means drowned. White means saved. Whole teeter-totter means transported. That is always 100 percent in a row. Oh my: 100 percent has a different length in every row. Difficult to read. And it is not aligned on the left hand side, but at the centre. Even more difficult to read. And painted as area, not as length. Not at all to read.

That’s what you get when you want too much. Here: to show percent and absolute numbers at the same time.

Row salad

Sunday, December 30th, 2012 - by Bella

The German newspaper “Handelsblatt” likes double rows. Lots of data is shown for every share of the DAX. And a colorful logo. The data doesn’t fit in one row. Therefore the “Handelsblatt” uses two of them. And writes below each other what should be next to each other.

Dax 30, 06.12.2012 - adidas, Allianz, BASF, Bayer, Beiersdorf, BMW. Quelle: Handelsblatt, 07.12.2012, Seite 41.
Source: Handelsblatt, 2012–12–07, page 41. Click to enlarge.

Numbers to be compared shall be written one below the other. Then everything is easier to understand. Here shares shall be compared. Does not work. Because the numbers, that are written one below the other, always show another aspect of the same share. Below the daily change of adidas is not the daily change of Allianz. Instead adidas again, but this time previous year. And below the annual change of adidas there is indeed Allianz. But not previous year, but previous day. For comparison it is necessary to mentally skip one row. You’d rather like to think about numbers!

Dax 30, 06.12.2012 - Deutsche Börse, Deutsche Post, Deutsche Telekom, Fresenius Medical Care, Fresenius. Quelle: Handelsblatt, 07.12.2012, Seite 41.

And have a look at the bars: the previous days have one scale. And the previous years have another scale. Therefore the 1.96 of “Deutsche Post” is longer than its 38.09. Hm. And the –0.49 of Deutsche Telekom is as long as its –3.21. Only redder. Well…

Changing change

Saturday, December 15th, 2012 - by Bella

It is funny with the cash box of the TeamBank. This year there are 123.628 euro. And 61 cents. Last year there was only 53. I was puzzled. And then learned: left side euro, right side thousand euro. I don’t like it. Left side precisely. Right side roughly. And both different. Doesn’t help. Does only distract. Particularly here: the longer number is often the smaller one. For example the cash reserve. Look, how long do you need to understand it?

Jahresbilanz zum 31. Dezember 2010 der TeamBank AG, Nürnberg - Aktivseite. Quelle: Geschäftsbericht 2010 der TeamBank AG, Seite 76.
Source: Annual report 2010 of the TeamBank AG (PDF), page 76. Click to enlarge.

Ranking by rating

Friday, November 30th, 2012 - by Bella

The graphic is bad: to understand it, I had to read the whole article. The article though was good: car companies are banks. They give money to the car drivers. The car drivers buy cars with the money. The car companies don’t have the money either. They borrow the money from real banks. The real banks want money for the money. From some car companies a lot of money. From other car companies less money. If S&P says A three times, then less money. If S&P says B three times, then more money. The A’s then can give a cheaper credit to the car drivers. The car drivers like that and buy more cars from the A‘s.

Have a look.

Absatzschwierigkeiten: Autoverkäufe in der EU. Quelle: Handelsblatt, 20.11.2012, Seite 28.
Source: Handelsblatt, 2012–11–20, page 28.

Why is it so hard to understand the graphic? Because it is not ordered by rating. Because rating is blue and so are the cars. Because the car size doesn’t mean rating, but sales. Because the eye asks: the bigger the blue car, the what are the red bars?

Have a look.

Absatzschwierigkeiten: Autoverkäufe in der EU. Redesign: ich.
Redesign: me.

Now it works. Why? Because: correlation only shows with order.


Thursday, November 15th, 2012 - by Bella

It is difficult to compare time series. Indexing can help. Can be calculated in one way or the other. Equal with all: Everything is compared with the same point in time. It  has to be chosen carefully. Equal with all: You don’t see the differences at the beginning any more. You can’t help that. Therefore: Watch out!

Have a look.

Good, Not Great: Cumulative change in number of jobs. Quelle: Wall Street Journal, 06.01.2012.Engine and Caboose: Percentage change in the ISM manufacturing index vs. NFIB. Quelle: Wall Street Journal, 01.12.2010.
Source: “Wall Street Journal”, left 2012–01–06, rechts 2010–12–01.

Here, it was calculated like that: How far away are all the values with respect to January 2010 (left) and January 2005 (right)? In percent. The beginning is 0 percent. How big were the differences then? This you don’t see.

Commodity prices, January 6th 2009=100; coffee, orange juice, wheat. Quelle: The Economist, 04.08.2010.

Source: The Economist, 2010–08–04.

Here, it was calculated like that: All values have been divided by January 2009. And multiplied by 100. The beginning is 100. How big were the differences then? This you don’t see.

Slowest Recovery Since the 1960s. Quelle: Heritage Foundation, 30.08.2012.
Source: Heritage Foundation, 2012–08–30.

Here, things were cut out and glued together. Actually, every chart had another starting point: in the 60s, 70s, 80s and so on. Now, in the graphic every chart has the same starting point. How big were the differences then? This you don’t see. Has the starting point been carefully chosen? Invictus says no.

Even more can disappear with an index: have a look at Paresh. Better than disappindex is logarithm.

You only draw twice

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012 - by Bella

“Die Welt” has drawn a graphic table. The “Süddeutsche Zeitung” draws some every day. But with ash. Have a look.

Source: “Die Welt”, 2012–10–24, page 13.

Normally I bitch very very very often, ifDie Welt draws something. Today I like it. Seven columns with numbers. Thereof fife with bars. Nicely compact. Lots to look at. All in. Well… I better have a second look.

The bars could be longer. The space would be sufficient. Then, there would be more distinction.

The stripes are stupid. Very seldom, they are supposed to be in tables. The circles are even more stupid. They are only supposed to be in cross-classified tables. Not here: they do not fit into the cells. They overlap. They can’t be well compared.

Have a look again. If you draw the circles as bars they would look like the bars for gram. See, there is the same information twice. Remember: If the same thing is there twice it is one too many.