The Challenge from FlowingData

The 25 February posting from FlowingData issues a challenge to improve a chart from the Economist. I find that the Economist usually does pretty solid work and so improving their output is by no means easy. Regardless, I figured I would further delay starting my Friday work by spending 15–20 minutes on an attempt to improve the Economist’s work.

Original from the Economist vs. My Attempt



I did not find a whole lot of flaws in their chart. Most unnecessary bits have been eliminated and we have a clean line chart. The semi-advantage allowed us all is that we do not have to follow the branding guidelines of the Economist. Initially, I attempted to do a straight grey-scale chart but found the overlapping lines could be a bit confusing. And so I added a hint of blue and then tinted lines when they overlapped to aid the reader in following each line.

I also eliminated the shaded Forecast area and replaced it with switching the solid lines of the historic data to a dashed line for forecast data. The exact shape of the lines may not be exact because I traced over the lines with the pen tool in Illustrator—but for these purposes that seemed reasonable to me.

The other ‘big’ change was more typographic in nature. I decided to highlight the countries and drop back the labels by making the latter grey.

Author: Brendan Barry

I am a graphic designer who focuses on information design. My day job? I am the data visualisation manager for the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. (This blog is my something I do on my own time and does not represent the views of the Fed, blah blah blah legal stuff.) And with my main interest in information design—be it in the shape of clear charts, maps, diagrams, or wayfinding systems—I am fortunate that my day job focuses on data visualisation. Outside of work, I try to stay busy with personal design work. Away from the world of design, I enjoy cooking and reading and am interested in various subjects from history and geography to politics to science to the arts. And I allow all of them to influence my work.

2 thoughts on “The Challenge from FlowingData”

  1. The colors of the lines in the original chart make it easier to distinguish the countries. There is not enough difference in the colors in the reworked chart.

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