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Chart Complexity
Chart Complexity
The KISS principle ( Keep It Simple, Stupid ) is particularly applicable to charts. The
main purpose of a chart, after all, is to present information in a manner that makes
the information easy to understand. A chart that is unnecessarily complex defeats
the purpose.
Just plain bad
We’ve all seen charts like the one in Figure 11-18. This chart is so bad that it doesn’t
even deserve further discussion.
Figure 11-18: No comment.
Maximizing “data ink”
Edward R. Tufte, author of several books that deal with the visual presentation of
data, refers to the principle of data ink maximization . Simply put, this principle
states that the most effective charts use their “ink” to display data — not chart
accoutrements such as grid lines and labels. Consequently, nonessential chart elements
can often be deleted with little or no adverse effect on the readability of the chart.
Figure 11-19 shows a typical column chart on the left and a “minimalist” version
of the chart on the right. There’s certainly nothing wrong with the original version
of this chart. The chart on the right, however, removes all nonessential elements —
and the basic message remains. The chart on the right underwent the following
The Chart Area border was removed.
The Plot Area was made transparent.
The grid lines were removed.
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