Be wild, but not like a teen celeb

In graphics you will get asked to make a bar chart a LOT. It’s the perfect visualization: compact, easy to understand, and quick to produce. But we often turn to it by default, without considering alternatives.

When I first started working on the above graphic, I was given a bar chart of the numbers. The x-axis was essentially all names of a bunch of DC-area counties. Being new the area I had not idea where each was specifically. To cover for my geographical ignorance, I mocked up a couple charts in a map view. I thought I might as well pitch them to my editor.



We decided on the top version, but my first choice still is the bottom right, with the circles. It was a smart choice on her part. You have to push things a little to stand out, but you can’t get too wild. I’ve made that mistake before.

A bar chart was the first choice for what ended up as the below¬†graphic. The managing editor was sitting near me, and I distinctly remembering asking “What if we tried…” and not realizing I had just signed both of us up for five more hours of work that night.

I was proud of it at the time, but I don’t think it works as well as DC graphic. Here I was just starting out in design, with no one to reign it in or remind me clarity always comes first.

graph showing how much board members contributed to political campaigns
Created using Illustrator while working the graphics desk at The Daily Tar Heel, student newspaper of UNC-Chapel Hill, 2006 (Circulation est: 24,000).

My boss for Chrome advocates for being a LOT crazy in your work. Once it goes through the necessary channels, the design will be a fraction of the craziness it once was. But if not many people will see it before you push it out, I say just be a little wild, just enough to make a memorable message couched in the comfort of familiar terms.