Tuesday, January 10, 2017

In visualization, white space is your friend

One point I make in the introduction to graphic design classes I've taught in the past is that white space isn't empty space. Empty space is needlessly unused space; white space has meaning. There's even a good introduction to graphic design titled White Space is Not Your Enemy.

This morning's New York Times has a good example of that principle, courtesy of Margot Sanger-Katz and Quoctrung Bui. The top-right quadrant is occupied by a large majority of the American public —to the right and to the left,— and experts in gun violence. The bottom, a vast, blank ocean, probably belongs to Republican legislators, NRA lobbyists, and the minority President-elect.

(Click the image to expand.)


  1. Hello, Alberto.

    While I usually agree with you, in this case, I think the graphic would have been better served with a "traditional" set of axis labels. Y-axis would be "Support For" and X-axis would be "Experts Effectiveness Rating". I found the current cross in the middle a bit confusing and serving no real purpose as it's really just the 50% lines of both axes.

    Thanks for keeping these examples coming to us!

    1. That they're the 50% lines *is* the point, so I guess I would say that I am confused as to why you're confused about them :)

      I see the primary point as "More than half of Americans support all of these approaches to gun laws" and "More than half of the Experts agree that many of them are effective measures"

      Seems like a pretty good way to make that point, to me.