The FT Data Blog published a visualisation of EU unemployment that is a real pleasure. There are a number of things I really like about this blog:
The amount of data is pretty impressive…
– anyone vaguely interested in the topic will have a great deal to look at here. Unemployment trends amongst the population, young people and long term unemployed for all 28 EU countries, for 10 or 11 time periods, together with regional unemployment rates shown on a map and a graph. All of this gives a great overview and puts each country’s issues into fascinating context.
…but the design makes it possible
If I suggested to someone that a one-page visualisation should contain 84 charts plus a map and another chart showing over 100 regions, they would probably say that it was far too much. A typical survey research results report would break down that much data across a number of different slides. But you get much more from seeing it all at once because you can get the context as well as the detail. And what makes it possible is great design: a limited number of colours are used, so that the brain isn’t distracted. Everything is neatly arranged and the unnecessary is not there – axis tick marks, data labels, gridlines.
Position, size, shape and colour all convey information
The shape of each mini line chart tells the story of the last ten years in each country. For extra meaning, the position of the charts also shows the ranking of each country. The map shading gives a geographical story for the EU and also highlights interesting stories such as the difference between north and south Italy, and the varying fortunes of the Czech Republic compared with its erstwhile sister region Slovakia.
Less is more
Minimalism brings out the real stories and avoid distractions. The bar chart displays the unemployment rate in every region and the fact that all the bars are one colour with no borders or labels makes us focus on its shape, which illustrates the enormous variety in unemployment rates across the EU. It’s really uneccesary for every series in a chart to be a different colour like the PowerPoint defaults.
There are definitely some lessons to learn from this really great example which can be applied in survey research. I would like to see research reporting which puts more together on one page for better insight, uses professional quality design, removes the clutter, and focuses on shape, size, colour and position to best effect.