David forwarded me his graphic on the modern two party system in the United States senate which essentially shows the senate's bipartisanship over time. It made me happy to see someone in political science using R, playing around with data, and taking a stab at creating a useful graphic.
Improving the Graphic
While the graphic is indeed useful, I think there are some things that could make it even better. Here are thoughts that I sent to David.
- I wasn't immediately sure what each visual cue represented e.g. size of state abbrev. until I reached the bottom. It might be worth making the annotation more prominent either by position, size, or color or all three.
- To me, the congress numbers don't matter so much, but that just might be I don't have a lot of learning on the history of American government.
- I'm wondering if there's some way to make the labeling of the years more concise? If you just labeled with the first year of the two-year term, would it be obvious that you're describing a two-year term? What if you took away the alternating gray background and just made it all white and then had a bar timeline-type thing on top (and bottom)?
- What if you tried to use a color scheme? I mean, you have the red and blue for the reps and dems (which I think is right), but the gradient for the senate counts turns very bright pink and purple which doesn't go too well. Then there's the cyan, yellow, and green which doesn't seem to have any specific significance other than each color represents something. What I mean is... is there a reason you chose those colors?
- It might be worth making the annotations bigger so that you don't have to "zoom in" to read.
- I think I would make the median lines a bit more prominent, but that's just me.
- There's a lot of cool stuff getting represented here, and I wonder if anything might benefit as a separate graph. Would this benefit at all as a series of graphs instead of one large graphic?
Now It's Your Turn
So that's my opinion. What do you think? Judging from our FlowingData Facebook group (which I'm happy to see is growing), we have a very diverse bunch from design, statistics, computer science, and some other areas, so I'm eager to hear what the rest of you think about this visualization.