Sunday, June 3, 2012

A fun pie chart about pie charts

One of the recurring jokes among my students at the University of Miami and at UNC-Chapel Hill is that I hate pie charts. I don't. Actually, if in a project you prove to me that a pie chart is more efficient than any other kind of graphic at communicating your story, it's likely you will get an A.

Circular graphics —pie charts, comparisons based on bubbles, spider charts, and the sort— have their space in information graphics, but they are so often misused that it has become a sport for experts to criticize the most egregious examples of wrongdoing (see a summary here) with wit and humor. I sympathize with the view advanced in those articles, in general, with just a few exceptions: in the The Functional Art DVD (you'll get it with the book), I praise this circular plot by The Guardian for very specific reasons. Stephen Few would not approve; see his classic "Our Irresistible Fascination with All Things Circular."

Anyway, I am getting to the point. See how people sometimes make fun of my distaste for pie charts: In September 2011, my friend Matt Perry, head of infographics at the San Diego Union-Tribune, published this picture on Twitter; its caption was "Donut social time in the graphics department."

It was a slow Friday for me, so I replied, tongue-in-cheek:

Here's Matt again:

And here's me, trying to sound smart:

Only to be effortlessly outwitted by Matt:

Who attached this graphic to his tweet. He produced it in five or ten minutes. I am using it in The Functional Art DVD, by the way. How could I leave it aside? It's so funny: