Lecture 5

Why do we use graphs? To make comparisons easier

Designers choose what is aesthetic or fashionable – overuse of bubble charts. Our vision and brains struggle to measure surface area, better equipped at analysing length. Due to this we struggle to differentiate statistics that involve circles and tend to underestimate size, figures and values.

The more accurate and easier it is to make a judgment the more likely the reader will take away a perception of the presented patterns. This reflects the notion of the human brain finding it easier to compare simple measures, dollar values or figures. Lines or bar based charts on a single axis are the best visual representations for data.

The three most common types of charts used are time series charts (plotting changes over time, renowned in stock markets), bar charts are one dimensional which compares things and a scatter plot that has a variable on each axis.

Reimagined data can have serious implications on the wellbeing and health of professionals and public. In the case of the NASA launch, the rocket manufacturer’s graphics were inconclusive and poorly displayed. Despite this information the launch still went forward and ended in disaster. The mode of data presentation affects our mentality and understanding towards the issue.


Bar Chart
Incredibly useful, easy to use and pre-exisiting understanding. Quick to compare information, highs and lows revealed at a glance. Trends are visible within the graph, good for comparing categories.


Line Chart
As popular as bar charts and frequently used. Line charts connect individual data points allowing us to understand a sequence. Their primary value is to understand trends over time, eg. Stock price change over a 5 year period.


Pie Chart
Commonly used, and sometimes poorly executed. They should be used to show the relative proportions and percentages of information and only those things. Limit to 6 proportions. If using more than 6, consider a bar chart.


We use graphs as a tool of presenting information as a pattern or simplifying data so the human brain can easily measure size, figures and values. The lecture was important as it reflected the benefits of showcasing data for easily consumed purposes. In a professional setting graphs can even save lives as seen in the NASA example. The mode of data presentation affects our mentality and understanding towards the issue.

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