Analysis versus storytelling

April 23, 2012  |  Design

Robert Kosara contrasts my version of the pay gap graphic with the NYT original and notes how small changes make a big difference in how a graphic reads.

But what Nathan's version is missing is the story. The additional data mostly adds confusion: move your mouse over the year in the lower right, and what do you see? Lots of points are moving around, but there doesn’t appear to be a clear trend. The additional categories are interesting, but what do they add?

Not much. When I was putting together the graphic, I was hoping for a clear trend — something so obvious that didn't have to be explained. Instead I got fuzzy results. And that's where I stopped. On the other hand, the NYT version explains those fuzzy results, namely the outliers, such as women CEOs who work for non-profits or the greater percentage of men in medical specialties like surgery.

In analysis, assuming the users are experts of their data, annotation is less important. It's about allowing them to stay nimble and ask/answer a lot of questions. Graphics that tell stories with data, however, already have something interesting to say.

Unless otherwise noted, graphics and words by me are licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC. Contact original authors for everything else.