A new candidate for worst figure

August 31, 2014

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Today I read a paper that had been submitted to the IJF which included the following figure


along with several similar plots. (Click for a larger version.) I haven’t seen anything this bad for a long time. In fact, I think I would find it very difficult to reproduce using R, or even Excel (which is particularly adept at bad graphics).

A few years ago I produced “Twenty rules for good graphics”. I think I need to add a couple of additional rules:

  • Represent time changes using lines.
  • Never use fill patterns such as cross-hatching.

(My original rule #20 said Avoid pie charts.)

It would have been relatively simple to show these data as six lines on a plot of GDP against time. That would have made it obvious that the European GDP was shrinking, the GDP of Asia/Oceania was increasing, while other regions of the world were fairly stable. At least I think that is what is happening, but it is very hard to tell from such graphical obfuscation.

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