DATA to Insight

Canada energy ad campaign

In 2014 on the Washington DC Metro I saw the following graphic as part of an aggressive campaign by the Canadian energy sector to promote exports to the US.

Note at least 4 design distortions:

  1. the width - and therefore the proportional area - of the Canada bar is 50% greater than that of the others,
  2. the CANADA label is 70% higher than the other 5 labels,
  3. the red color of the bar is intended to make the bar (and therefore the distortion!) stand out,
  4. the variable name and its value are shown only in the top bar.

I have revised the datagraphic.

The revision lets the data reveal their insights and may even be more effective in showing how Canada's exports exceed those of the other 5 countries. We see that Canada exports 70% more than does Saudi Arabia, more than twice that of Mexico and Venezuela, and much more than the last two, somewhat unreliable, trade partners. A technically sophisticated viewer (as are many Metro riders) can easily study the data undistracted by confusing distortions and exaggerations and not have to wonder, for example, if the length of the bars is also being manipulated.

The revision features other design choices:

I am by no means in agreement with the campaign (whose underlying goal appears to be promoting the Keystone XL pipeline), but telling the truth is always preferable to distorting the data.