Assignment 1: Good and Bad Visualizations

Camilo Rostoker

September 14, 2005

Example 1: A Bad Visualization


This image was taken from the February 2005 edition of MIT Technology Review magazine[1]. It shows that 14 countries made up 90% of the total investments in Nanotechnology in 2003.

There are two reasons why this is a bad visualization. First of all, the data column for "Percent from national government" is averaged at the botton row (World total) whereas the column to the left (2003 funding in millions) is summed. Without any indication of the different calculations this can easily be mis-interpreted. Secondly, the size and shape of the countries on the world map are distorted, but with no apparent structure. One could infer that the enlarged shapes are to illustrate the relative spending of each country, however this is not clear and there is no obvious indication this is the case.


Example 2: A Good Visualization


This figure is taken from the April 2005 edition of MIT Technology Review[1]. It is showing the foreign owned R&D centers in China, and showing the spatial concentrations of these centers.

I believe this is a quality visualization because it contains all the information one would need in order to fully comprehend the intended meaning: legend to depict the meaning of the icons and text styles; several embedded charts illustrate information given in the text on the left; colour coding to distinguish the between the regions and the percent of foreign investment (i.e. 88% is on the southern and eastern coastal regions, while only 3% for the interior). This gives the reader a good idea of the size of China with regard to where the majority of the foreign investments are.



[1] MIT Technology Review Magazine: