The graphics below depict examples of good and bad information design.
The chart below very clearly depicts the year-over-year change in home prices. This chart shows an easy-to-read comparison of data across cities by applying Tufte’s theory of small multiples. The design effectively illustrates that the housing price collapse did not effect every city in the same way. This chart is an example of good information design.
This next illustration is an example of poor information design. There’s a lot going on and it’s hard to follow. The text is very dense and difficult to read. It is very busy and there is a lot of color usage. It is difficult to see where the end of each line lands because all the lines are crossing.
The illustration below is meant to show how much freshwater is used to produce selected products in an effort to get people to rethink their consumption patterns. This is a great example of good information design; the chart’s purpose is clear, it shows comparisons easily, the graphics are simple, and the reader can easily understand the message.
The following pie chart very clearly depicts bad information design. Pie charts aren’t always used correctly anyway, but this design is just awful – from the amount of text to the numerous leader lines to the worst part – the transparency. The transparency of the chart makes it very difficult to read and understand, which therefore loses its intended message.
This next piece is really something. Reebee Garofalo’s Genealogy of Pop/Rock Music chart chronicles the growth and development of pop/rock music and its top selling artists. Covering the time period from 1955 to 1978, more than 700 artists and 30 styles of music are mapped in currents flowing from left-to-right. For each performer, the length of time that he/she remained a major hit maker is provided. The overlapping streams allow you to compare the longevity and influence of multiple artists for the same time period. The birth and genealogy of each stylistic category is presented, along with an estimation of its share of total record sales. Edward Tufte noted, “With intense richness of detail, this nostalgic and engaging chart fascinates many viewers … Also the illustration presents a somewhat divergent perspective on popular music: songs are not merely singles — unique, one-time, de novo happenings — rather, music and music-makers share a pattern, a context, a history.”