23 February 2007

Visualized Data

Visual representations of otherwise texty/numbery data are a big deal in certain fields. Some of these are artsy, and others aren’t. Take my post about Mark Lombardi, whose complicated graphs are held in the collections of major museums and were consulted as evidence in the aftermath of 9/11. And speaking of the aftermath of 9/11, those handy terror-alert-warning-whatevers—well, they’re another visual tool, a translation of (probably massive amounts of) texty/numbery stuff that is not at all artsy (or useful if you ask me).

My scientist-dad, for example, has told me that there are artists/designers out there, employed by the scientific community to create illustrations, teasers, if you will that help normal folk and scientists alike easily and quickly grasp a complicated reaction or biochemical situation.

And my husband uses graphs, charts, and other visual helps to plan projects and track information and processes. Like government terror alerts, these are really far from any kind of artistic/creative impulse. They exist not (just) to look cool, but because people respond well to it. It works.

So visualized data works, and it work quickly. But the translation from data to image doesn’t always go well. When that happens you (of course) end up with an image that hurts more than it helps. Since I’m totally enamored of visual things, I tend to take these visual gaffs as affronts rather than mere errors. Here’s one such data-to-image failure that came into my home on a bottle of oil:

Right. I’m no mathematician, and I don’t make graphs for a living either, but take a look at the yellow indicators. 61% and 28% are shown to be equivalents, as are 7% and 14%. Worse still, 48% is shown bigger than 49%, which makes me think these people weren’t even trying.

Well, they were trying to get the saturated fat indicator right. Canola has the least. Yup. Got that. But Canola also has far and away the MOST of the good, monounsaturated fat. Canola isn't just low on damage, it hands-down wins for being good. But if you relied on your inclination (which is to look at the picture) you'd miss that all together.

So, since I'm on a crusade and all, I corrected it. Here's how it ought to look (with the minor error that 'trace values' are indicated as 1 whole percent):

1 comment:

Dad said...

Go get them lady. Why aren't these things checked a little closer? Was this an employee of the UN that decided to leave their position for something in the private sector? Not really, but you wonder what the reviewer of this project was doing when they said yes for a go ahead on the final printing.