Federal Reserve Actions

Line charts can be a great way of looking at the impact of event over a metric over a set period of time. But what happens when you want to look at multiple metrics over that same period of time?

In this example from the New York Times, we have a series of line charts examining the impact of Federal Reserve actions over several years. Instead of attempting to conflate and confuse the issue by combining multiple charts into one, the designers chose to construct a vertical-running story that is linked by running narration. The final piece looks at four metrics: Federal Reserve assets, the S&P 500 index, the unemployment rate, and the labour force participation rate.

Federal Reserve actions
Federal Reserve actions

The use of the coloured bars in particular works to create and enforce the vertical narrative. The colour consistency across the four charts also aids in that effort. While an option like four small charts could have worked in one visual screen space, you would likely lose much of the detail and fidelity in the lines.

Credit for the piece goes to the New York Times graphics department.

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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