When I was a young boy, I loved to color with my big box of Crayola Crayons. I would pull out blank sheets of paper and create multi-colored masterpieces (at least my mother said so).
Crayola’s crayon chronology tracks their standard box, from its humble eight color beginnings in 1903 to the present day’s 120-count lineup. According to Crayola, of the seventy-two colors from the official 1975 set – sixty-one survive. 
A creative dataviz type who goes by the name Velociraptor (referred from here as “Velo”) created the chart below to show the historical crayonology (I just made that word up!) of Crayola Crayons colors.
Velo gently scraped Wikipedia’s list of Crayola colors, corrected a few hues, and added the standard 16-count School Crayon box available in 1935.
Except for the dayglow-ski-jacket-inspired burst of neon magentas at the end of the ’80s, the official color set has remained remarkably faithful to its roots!
Ever industrious, Velo also calculated the average growth rate: 2.56% annually. For maximum understandability, he reformulated it as “Crayola’s Law,” which states:
The number of colors doubles every 28 years!
If the Law holds true, Crayola’s gonna need a bigger box, because by the year 2050, there’ll be 330 different crayons! 
A Second Version
Velo was not satisfied with his first version, so he produced the second version below. 
A Third Version (and interactive too!)
Click through to the interactive version for a larger view with mouseover color names!
 Stephen Von Worley, Color Me A Dinosaur, The History of Crayola Crayons, Charted, Data Pointed, January 15, 2010, http://www.datapointed.net/2010/01/crayola-crayon-color-chart/.
 Stephen Von Worley, Somewhere Over The Crayon-Bow, A Cheerier Crayola Color Chronology, Data Pointed, October 14, 2010, http://www.datapointed.net/2010/10/crayola-color-chart-rainbow-style/.
NPR has written a lot about how income has changed (or not) for the rich, middle class and poor in the U.S. In the past, however, they have written much less about what the rich, middle class and poor actually do for work.
To remedy that, NPR made this graph. It shows the 10 most popular jobs in each income bracket.
Data from 2012, adjusted for inflation.
If you click on each job, you can see where it appears in different income brackets.
The jobs here look shockingly familiar. It’s like a Richard Scarry model of the labor market, with people working jobs ripped right out of a storybook. This is the kind of work that needs to get done in every city in America. It shows that, at least nationally, the conventional idea of what people do for a living still holds.
Looking across incomes and rankings there are a couple of interesting things to note:
- It’s good to be the boss: Being a manager is the most common job from the 70th percentile up to the 99th.
- Doctors and lawyers are only found in the top two brackets. (There’s a reason our grandmothers wanted us to go to med school or law school.)
- Sales supervisors are well-represented across all groups. It’s a broad job title that applies to people making as little as $12,000 a year all the way up to six figures.
The data come from the American Community Survey using individual income from wages and salaries. We restricted the sample to adults ages 25 to 65 and who worked at least three months in the past year.
References: Quoctrung Bui, The Most Common Jobs For The Rich, Middle Class And Poor, NPR.com, October 16, 201412:50 PM ET, http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2014/10/16/356176018/the-most-popular-jobs-for-the-rich-middle-class-and-poor.
I’ve mentioned Bob Boze Bell (photo, right) and his A True West Moment column that appears in our Sunday The Arizona Republic before. As I said then, one of my favorite things to do in life is read the Sunday newspaper. I have been doing this since I was around 10 years old. I always read the comics first, but that has diminished as most of my favorite comic strips are long since retired. However, in The Arizona Republic, one of the first things I read every Sunday is A True West Moment by the legendary Bob Boze Bell.
In 1999, Boze took over the legendary True West Magazine. Launched in 1953 by the legendary Joe “Hosstail” Small in Austin, Texas, True West is a popular history publication with a loyal, core readership, and the oldest, continuously published Western Americana publication in the world. Thanks to the proliferation of TV Westerns in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the magazine enjoyed broad circulation (200,000+ newsstand sales). But, as the market and his health started to decline, Joe Small sold out in 1974 and over the next decade, the magazine bounced around the Midwest, finally settling in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Unfortunately, the Oklahoma owners did not have the capital to stay current with the changing times and the magazine began to lose significant market share, as newer, slicker titles such as Cowboys & Indians and American Cowboy came into the marketplace. By mid-1999, the publication, along with three other titles, was for sale, and the current owners came to the rescue. True West Publishing (including assets and trademarked names of True West, Old West, Frontier Times) moved to Cave Creek, Arizona, in October 1999. [SOURCE]
In 2003, the magazine celebrated its 50th anniversary. The year also marked the incorporation of True West Publishing and an increase in the magazine’s frequency to 10 issues. True West now also publishes an annual shopping guide called the Best of the West Source Book.
I was in Portland, Oregon last week attending three data visualization workshops by industry expert, Stephen Few. I was very excited to be sitting at the foot of the master for three days and soak in all of this great dataviz information.
Last Thursday, was the third workshop, Now You See It which is based on Steve’s best-selling book (see photo below).
To not give away too much of what Steve is teaching in the workshops, I have decided to discuss one of our workshop topics, human perceptual and cognitive strengths.
You can find future workshops by Steve on his website, Perceptual Edge.
Designed for Humans
Good visualizations and good visualization tools are carefully designed to take advantage of human perceptual and cognitive strengths and to augment human abilities that are weak. If the goal is to count the number of circles, this visualization isn’t well designed. It is difficult to remember what you have and have not counted.
Quickly, tell me how many blue circles you see below.
The visualization below, shows the same number of circles, however, is well designed for the counting task. Because the circles are grouped into small sets of five each, it is easy to remember which groups have and have not been counted, easy to quickly count the number of circles in each group, and easy to discover with little effort that each of the five groups contains the same number of circles (i.e., five), resulting in a total count of 25 circles.
The arrangement below is even better yet.
Information visualization makes possible an ideal balance between unconscious perceptual and conscious cognitive processes. With the proper tools, we can shift much of the analytical process from conscious processes in the brain to pre-attentive processes of visual perception, letting our eyes do what they do extremely well.
I am in Portland, Oregon this week attending three data visualization workshops by industry expert, Stephen Few. I am very excited to be sitting at the foot of the master for three days and soak in all of this great dataviz information.
Yesterday, was the first workshop, Show Me the Numbers which is based on Steve’s best-selling book (see photo below).
To not give away too much of what Steve is teaching in the workshops, I have decided for today to show a “before and after” example with Steve’s explanation of why he made the changes he did.
You can find future workshops by Steve on his website, Perceptual Edge.
In the example below, the message contained in the titles is not clearly displayed in the graphs. The message deals with the ratio of indirect to total sales – how it is declining domestically, while holding steady internationally. You’d have to work hard to get this message the display as it is currently designed.
The revised example below, however, is designed very specifically to display the intended message. Because this graph, is skillfully designed to communicate, its message is crystal clear. A key feature that makes this so is the choice of percentage for the quantitative scale, rather than dollars.
Additional Thoughts From Steve
The type of graph that is selected and the way it’s designed also have great impact on the message that is communicated. By simply switching from a line graph to a bar graph, the decrease in job satisfaction among those without college degrees in their later years is no longer as obvious.
I am in Portland, Oregon this week attending three data visualization classes by industry expert, Stephen Few. I am very excited to be sitting at the foot of the master for three days and soak in all of this great dataviz information.
To follow my theme of highlighting cities I visit, I found an inforgraphic created by Ben VanderVeen of Mount Hood. Ben is a filmmaker and designer living on the west coast. On his website you will find examples of his design work, video projects, documentary film and more. If you are interested in hiring Ben for a project or working collaboratively, visit his contact page here.
Stay tune for highlights of each of the three classes by Stephen Few over the next few days.
As many of you know, I am a born and raised Detroiter. Despite living in Arizona most of my adult life, I still root for the hometown sports team, seem to be able to find another Detroiter in a crowded room, and long for Sanders Hot Fudge and Lafayette Coney Island hot dogs and hamburgers.
I came across this beautiful chart of buildings in Detroit created by Eric Jang on her blog, The Indigo Bunting. Erin Jang is an art director and designer living in New York City. She has worked as a designer/illustrator/art director at several publications including Esquire magazine and was the senior art director at Martha Stewart Living magazine.
She now runs a design studio called The Indigo Bunting (theindigobunting.com) and works on custom freelance design projects and wedding invitations. Her design and illustration work has been recognized by PRINT magazine, Communication Arts, and the Society of Publication Design. She can be contacted at erin [at] theindigobunting [dot] com.
Check out Erin’s other work on her blog. It is truly beautiful.
Detroit Building Chart
Illustrations of 16 historical buildings in Detroit
Art Director: Jessica Decker
DBusiness Magazine, March 2013.
 Erin Jang, NEW WORK: Detroit Building Chart, The Indigo Bunting, 4/2/13, http://theindigobunting.blogspot.com/2013/04/new-work-detroit-building-chart.html.
 Bella Figura, Erin Jang Photo and Bio, http://www.bellafigura.com/designers/jang.html.
In the past, I would have highly condemned pie charts without giving you much explanation why. However, Dr. Robert Kosara (photo, left), posted a great thought study of pie charts on his wonderful blog, EagerEyes.org, that I want to share with you.
Dr. Kosara is a Visual Analytics Researcher at Tableau Software, with a special interest in the communication of, and storytelling with, data. He has a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Vienna University of Technology.
Also, as part of his blog post, Robert offers an alternative way to create pie charts: using waffle charts or square pie charts.
Dr. Kosara is also one of the great minds behind Tableau’s new storytelling feature. I hope you enjoy his creative thoughts as much as I do.
The Pie Chart
Dr. Kosara contends that pie charts are perhaps the most ubiquitous chart type; they can be found in newspapers, business reports, and many other places. But few people actually understand the function of the pie chart and how to use it properly. In addition to issues stemming from using too many categories, the biggest problem is getting the basic premise: that the pie slices sum up to a meaningful whole.
Robert points out that the circle (the “pie”) represents some kind of whole, which is made up of the slices. What this means is that the pie chart first and foremost represents the size relationship between the parts and the entire thing. If a company has five divisions, and the pie chart shows profits per division, the sum of all the slices/divisions is the total profits of the company.
If the parts do not sum up to a meaningful whole, they cannot be represented in a pie chart, period. It makes no sense to show five different occupations in a pie chart, because there are obviously many missing. The total of such a subsample is not meaningful, and neither is the comparison of each individual value to the artificial whole.
Slices have to be mutually exclusive; by definition, they cannot overlap. The data therefore must not only sum up to a meaningful whole, but the values need to be categorized in such a way that they are not counted several times. A good indicator of something being wrong is when the percentages do not sum up to 100%, like in the infamous Fox News pie chart.
The Infamous Fox News Pie Chart
In the pie chart above, people were asked which potential candidates they viewed favorably, but they could name more than one. The categories are thus not mutually exclusive, and the chart makes no sense. At the very least, they would need to show the amount of overlap between any two (and also all three) candidates. Though given the size of the numbers and the margin of error in this data, the chart is entirely meaningless.
When to Use Pie Charts
Dr. Kosara points out that there are some simple criteria that you can use to determine whether a pie chart is the right choice for your data.
- Do the parts make up a meaningful whole? If not, use a different chart. Only use a pie chart if you can define the entire set in a way that makes sense to the viewer.
- Are the parts mutually exclusive? If there is overlap between the parts, use a different chart.
- Do you want to compare the parts to each other or the parts to the whole? If the main purpose is to compare between the parts, use a different chart. The main purpose of the pie chart is to show part-whole relationships.
- How many parts do you have? If there are more than five to seven, use a different chart. Pie charts with lots of slices (or slices of very different size) are hard to read.
In all other cases, do not use a pie chart. The pie chart is the wrong chart type to use as a default; the bar chart is a much better choice for that. Using a pie chart requires a lot more thought, care, and awareness of its limitations than most other charts.
Alternative: Squaring the Pie
A little-known alternative to the round pie chart is the square pie or waffle chart. It consists of a square that is divided into 10×10 cells, making it possible to read values precisely down to a single percent. Depending on how the areas are laid out (as square as possible seems to be the best idea), it is very easy to compare parts to the whole. The example below is from a redesign Dr. Kosara did a while ago about women and girls in IT and computing-related fields.
Links to Examples of Waffle Charts
I did a little Googling and found a few great examples of Waffle Charts. I have provided links to examples in Tableau, jQuery R and Excel.
- Robert Kosara, Understanding Pie Charts, eagereyes.org, January 12, 2010, http://eagereyes.org/techniques/pie-charts.
- jQueryScript.net, Creating A Simple Square Pie Chart with jQuery Waffly Plugin, January 2014, http://www.jqueryscript.net/tags.php?/waffle%20chart/.
- Russell Christopher, Waffle Chart, Tableau Public, July 24, 2013, http://public.tableausoftware.com/download/workbooks/WaffleChart?format=html.
- Matt Parker, How to Make Waffle Charts in R, CrossValidated, November 2, 2011, http://stats.stackexchange.com/questions/17842/how-to-make-waffle-charts-in-r.
- Chris Gemignani and Clint Ivy, Solving the Pie, Juice Analytics, December 14, 2006, http://www.juiceanalytics.com/writing/solving-the-pie.