Redesigning USA Today’s eight stimulus plan charts: a data visualization exercise in chart type, data-ink and metaphor

The original features waffle charts. I feel bar charts are more effective.

USA Today on Saturday, August 1, 2020, published this article

It features several charts.

Several charts featured in this USA Today article

The first chart — used as the article’s hero image — caught my attention

The first chart in USA Today’s article
  • The numbers alone prove easy enough math: the Republican proposal is 1/3 as much as the Democratic
  • The layout and coloring is clever in how it carries the metaphor of two sides of an aisle
  • The square building block is given a legend to help add weight to the relatively large sizes of the new proposals

If the point of this chart is the 1/3 ratio, then consider this redesign

The first chart re-designed to highlight the ratio of proposal size
  • Repurposed as a bar chart with larger proposal placed above smaller proposal
  • Colors have increased saturation for easier readability
  • Greatly reduced squares
  • Axis realigned to left-hand side
  • The negative space between squares doubles as grid lines — indicating a 1 trillion dollar interval
  • The legend is now embedded in the bar

The second chart contains several types, causing unnecessary confusion

Waffles, segmented columns and a pie. Oh my!

I applied the same design principles to the top chart…

And used a more metaphorical visual for the bottom charts…

The third chart is similar to the second. Here is a before-and-after of both.

Before

  • Bifurcated waffle charts on top
  • Segmented column charts on bottom
After: (Left) bar chart; (Right) elementary math table

Below is a side-by-side comparison of all eight charts.

This was a delightful exercise in using the most appropriate chart type, and maximizing data-ink for the purpose of helping the reader more quickly understand what the author wanted to share.

I’ll share more exercises as I complete them, on Mondays, as part of #MakeoverMonday on Twitter.

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Robert Mion

Robert Mion

Designer, Developer, DataViz, Dad • rmion.com