I’m going to take a potshot at the Straits Times on a chart I saw in the Money Section.

The chart was trying to compare GIC’s (Government of Singapore Investment Corporation) current asset mix to last year’s asset mix. It gave me an absolute headache. This is my list of grouses:

  • Weak title. What does “ASSET MIX” really mean? There is plenty of space to say “Investment Asset Mix of GIC. 2009 vs 2008”. Without a clear title, I had to spend time trying to understand the numbers to know what this entire graphic was about.
  • Confusing colours. Apparently, there was an unspecified “colour meaning” that I had to interpret. Not only I had to mentally process the pie charts, I had to decipher the colour codes from the list. By then, I had lost the overall message of the graphic.
  • Numbers are all over the place. Why separate the numbers to the extreme sides of the graphic? My eyes had to swing from side to side to make meaning out of it. They should have been placed close together.
  • Too many numbers. 50% of the numbers in the list were not involved in the pie charts. So why list them out? It dilutes the strength of the charts. Make them smaller or simply don’t use it.

This would be my version of the graphic done in Excel 2007.

Things I have done:

  • Avoided pie charts. Our eyes judge lengths much better than angles.
  • Labeled the data series and provided values right into the chart. Hence lists and even charts axis are not needed. This creates a more compact graphic.
  • Added commentary to give the chart a purpose and message.

This is my version of the data without the chart: