With the rise of visual journalism and data journalism there has come with it a lot of noise. While covering the Asian markets with Reuters and spending a lot of time with data, my goal was to tell the viewer something within mere moments of viewing the chart. The aha moment!

It seems that much like citizen journalism muddying the waters of actual information in the news arena we are faced with ever more interactive, long form data visualisations. Which like many news items leave readers picking through information looking for the kernel of truth, or worse, taking it at face value or simply reading the written explanation to understand what they are seeing.

Case in pointWhen a visualisation is not really a visualisation

Bloomerg’s abuse of pie charts

First of all, you should not really use two pie charts together. It is silly. However,  I have been a perpetrator (apologies for the fuzzy nature, Reuters is saving server space it seems).

Image result for catherine trevethan reuters

But can you spot the difference? The steel production pies compares the proportion of the steel market much like Bloomberg’s. However the Bloomberg chart adds dollar values. This is what makes Bloomberg’s seem silly.

Bloomberg’s chart shows Indonesia now has a larger chunk of the Asean GDP. So what? Wait, what are those numbers! The billions of dollars look very interesting,  why did they simply slap two pie charts that show percentage together? Perhaps the focus of their story was Indonesia’s percentage of Asean GDP.

That can be put into a sentence. Indonesia’s share of Asean real GDP is 37%  versus 27% in 1970. Snore, no visual needed.

Data short hand (aka quick and dirty charts)

Who is the real winner in the Asean Real GDP race?
Singapore has seen 14650% growth in their GDP since 1970 and Indonesia 9340%. Well of course, the world now has 7 billion people versus 3.7. Indonesia’s GDP is 944 billion while Singapore is 295 billion and the others GDP is somewhat on par with Singapore.



The chart below tells a story about Asean GDP in one chart without words.

If you want to tell people Indonesia accounts for around 37% of Asean GDP, use a sentence.

Asean Real GDP 1970 – 2016.


To turn this into a real data dive you would now want to break down what makes up each of the main countries GDP. That is a visualisation worth looking into.