Last Thursday, the US entered its longest bull market in history. And the New York Times covered the story on the front page, which makes this another episode of covering graphics when they land on the Times’ front page. Of course, last week was a big news week away from the economy and so it is no surprise that the above-the-fold coverage was on the scandals besetting the president and those of his team who have pleaded guilty or been convicted of crimes by juries.
But you will note that below the fold is that nice little graphic. Here we see it in more detail.
What I like about the graphic is how it uses the blue fill to draw attention to the bull markets but then also labels how long each was. Those keen on the story will note there is a debate whether a particular 19.9% drop qualifies for the 20% drop usually used to benchmark the beginning and ending of a bull market. That is why there is that second label with the black arrows on the graphic.
It also uses the negative space created by the shape of the graphic to contain its title, text, and caption information.
Last Tuesday we looked at a print piece from the New York Times detailing the share price plunge of Facebook after the company revealed how recent scandals and negative news impacted its financials. Well, today we have a piece from last week that shows how large Apple is after it hit a market capitalisation of one trillion US dollars.
The piece itself is not big on the data visualisation, but it functions much like the Facebook piece, as a blend of editorial design and data visualisation. The graphic falls entirely above the fold and combines a factette and maybe we could classify it as a deconstructed tree map. It uses squares where, presumably, the area equates to the company’s value. And the sum total of those squares equals that of one trillion dollars, or the value of Apple.
In terms of design it does it well. The factette is large enough to just about stretch across the width of the page and so matches the graphic below it in its array of colours. Why the colours? I believe these are purely aesthetic. After all, it is unclear to me just what Ford, Hasbro, and General Mills all have in common. In a more straight data visualisation piece, we might see colour used to classify companies by industry, by growth in share price or market share. Here, however, colour functions in the editorial space to grab the reader’s attention.
The design also makes use of white space surrounding the text, much like the Facebook piece last week, to quiet the overall space above the fold and focus the reader’s attention on the story. Note that the usual layout of stories on the page continues, but only after the fold.
When we keep in mind the function of the piece, i.e. it is not a straight-up-explore-the-data type of piece, we can appreciate how well it functions. All in all this was a really nice treat last Friday morning.
Credit for the piece goes to Karl Russell and Jon Huang.
Last Thursday, Facebook’s share price plunged on the news of some not so great numbers from the company on its quarterly earnings report. The data and number itself is not terribly surprising—it is a line chart. But what I loved is how the New York Times handled this on the front of the Business section on Friday morning.
I found the layout of the page and that article striking. In particular, each day of the share price is almost self-contained in that the axis lines start and stop for each day. I question the thickness of the stroke as something a little thinner might have been a bit clearer on the data. However, it might also have not been strong enough to carry the attention at the top of the page. As it is, that attention is needed to draw the reader down the page and then down across the fold.
Additionally, the designers were sensitive to the need to draw that attention down the page. In order to do that they kept the white space around the graphic and kept the text to two small blocks before moving on to the interior of the section.
Credit for the story goes to Matthew Philips. Although I’m pretty sure the page layout goes to somebody else.
I found myself doing a bit of summer cleaning yesterday and I stumbled upon a few graphics of interest. This one comes from a September 2016 Wall Street Journal article about the changes in the S&P 500, a composite index of American stocks, some of the 500 largest.
In terms of the page design, if it were not for that giant 1/6 page advert in the lower right corner, this graphic could potentially dominate the visual page. The bulk of it sits above the page’s fold and the only other competing element is a headshot to the upper-right. Regardless, it was clearly enough to grab my attention as I was going through some papers.
As for the graphic itself, I probably would have some done things differently.
To start, are these actual tree maps? Or are they things attempting to look like tree maps? It is difficult to tell. In an actual tree map, the rectangles are not just arranged by convenience, as they appear to be here. Instead, they are in descending—or perhaps occasionally ascending—area, within groupings.
The groupings would have been particularly powerful here. Imagine instead of disparate blue boxes for industrials and utilities in the latter two years that they were combined into a single box. In 2001, that box may have been larger than the orange financials. Then by 2016, you would have seen those boxes switch places—in both years well behind the green boxes of 2001 debuts. If instead the goal was to show the percentages, as it might be given each percentage is labelled, a straight bar chart would have sufficed.
I am not always a fan of the circle for sizes along the bottom. But the bigger problem I have here is the alignment of the labelling and the pseudo-tree maps. One of my first questions was “how big are these years?”. However, that was one of the last points displayed, and it is separated from the tree maps from the listing of the largest company in the index from that year. I would have kept the total market cap closer to the trees, and perhaps used the whole length of line beneath the trees and instead pushed the table labels somewhere between the rather large gap from 1976 and 2001.
Credit for the piece goes to the Wall Street Journal graphics department.
One week ago today, President Trump touted soaring stock prices as an indicator of a roaring economy. In truth, stock market prices are not that. They are driven by fundamentals, such as GDP growth, wage increases, and inflation. Furthermore stock prices can be fickle and volatile. Whereas a recession does not begin overnight, the factors build over a period of time, a stock market correction can happen in a single day.
So one week hence, the stock market has seen fully one-third of its gains over the past year wiped out. That is over $1 trillion gone from market funds, 401ks, college saving funds, &c. But again, not to freak people out, these things can and do happen. But because they can and do happen, presidents do not often go touting the stock market as it can come back and bite them.
This morning’s paper therefore had a pleasant graphic to accompany a story about the recent declines. And it was on the front page.
Like with the choropleth story I covered a little over a week ago, the graphic in today’s paper was not revolutionary nor earth shattering. It was two line charts as one graphic. What was neat, however, was how it supported two different articles.
But when I looked closer I found what was really neat: context.
The chart does a great job of showing that context of adding nearly $8 trillion in value over the course of the administration. But then that sharp decline at the right-side of the chart is blown out into its own detail to show how all was steady until Friday’s economic news was released. I think perhaps the only drawback is how tiny and fragile that arrow feels. I wonder if something a little bolder would better draw the eye or connect the dots between the two charts. Maybe even moving the “… and the last week” line above the chart line would work.
Anyway, I was just curious to see how the charts were depicted on the web. And then lo and behold I was treated to two graphics on the home page. The other is for an article about flood risks to chemical plants, not part of this post. But the focus of our post on the stock market was the same as in print. But here is the homepage with two different graphics, always a treat for a designer like myself.
Credit for the piece goes to the New York Times graphics department.