US Trade Balance

The US imports a lot. But it does not export quite as much. The difference between those two figures is what is known as the balance of trade. Quartz looks at the US balance of trade not at an overall level, but between individual countries.

US Balance of Trade
US Balance of Trade

This is not one of my favourite pieces. For starters, while the overall figures are in the accompanying text, it would be useful to include total US imports and exports alongside the graphic as a point of reference.

Secondly, a long-standing issue I have is area comparisons. Sometimes they are needed and useful, a good example is a tree map. But in this piece, the circles do not add up to a recognisable whole. They also do not help when looking at individual countries and their historical trade values. A dotted outline of a circle shows the previous year’s trade. But more often than not, the trade level was so similar that the circles nearly overlap exactly.

The grouping and highlighting functionality hints at a useful application to explore US trade data, but the clumsiness of the circles renders that usefulness moot. .

Credit for the piece goes to David Yanofsky.

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.

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