Square Pie in the Eye

The New York Times—normally a source of clear and interesting infographics—produced the following graphic over the weekend.

NY Times square pie graphic

This is bafflingly awful—it’s Tiger Woods carding a 90. Square pies are an infographic seasoning—they’re cilantro, not steak. Here are a few of the problems with this graphic:

The color choices are bad. The saturations between groups are considerably different. The yellow is highly saturated while the other colors are not. The increased saturation draws your attention to the yellow area, but this is just a category like the others. I’d imagine someone with red-green color blindness would have trouble distinguishing the other colors.

There’s a hole in the center. Presumably this indicates people who didn’t respond to the question, but this is not noted. There are no gridlines in the white section even though the non-responding group should be treated visually like the other groups.

It’s hard to compare the sizes of groups. People are better at comparing lengths than volumes. Mixing length and volumes—some of the of the response categories are arranged linearly, while the inner category is basically a volume (with a hole!)—makes it nearly impossible for people to use their spacial skills to side up the differences. Asking people to compare lines and donuts is like asking whether you prefer the color blue or raw carrots. For the record, I prefer carrots.

If you’re interested in the concept of square pie charts, the place to start is at EagerEyes. If you want to learn how to make them yourself, check out our contest, results, and screencast.

The Times is still a source of great design and inspiration. Here’s another graphic they also produced over the weekend that shows cancer incidence, survival rate, and gender differences in a way that is clear, clean, and concise.

NY Times cancer graphic