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How Charts Lie - Introduction & Ch.1

Zurich is snowy. Waiting for the flight with good coffee and a good book.


Reading a new book is always exciting - as long as I have the time to actually sit down and read without multitasking. I received How Charts Lie from Prof. Cairo at the beginning of the semester and I finally am able to read it without being forced to switch mind between tasks.


The introduction and chapter 1 is a really good recap for me. It talks about how important it is to read a chart correct and as a designer, how to design a chart correctly.


As a reader, reading a chart correction directs you to the right way to explore the topic further. In order to do that, reading the context provided by the visualization is the first step. It prevents you from being biased by your own preconceptions as well as by the designer if the chart is poorly designed. Do not take everything presented to you granted as your mental model can be trained also can be taken advantage of. The author uses many examples to explain what information is carried by a chart, how to comprehend it, and how to pose valuable questions based on a well-designed visualization.


As a designer, these two chapters also provide rules to follow in order to deliver a value data-driven graphic. The first thing to keep in mind is that it is our responsibility to design a correct chart, based on which the audience will be able to receive the correct information and more importantly, to make the right decision. This requires us first, not to bring our own bias into a visualization. Different encoding methods can show different angles and layers of a story. We ought to constantly ask ourselves, “Is this the true story, or is it just a story that just makes sense to me.” Try to explore and dive into the story first to develop a full understanding of what is going on before starting to tell the story.


One of the questions that I had when reading the first two chapters was the following graph from the book. I expected the graphics on each row to be somewhat different from each other since they are either with or without scaffolding. But I could not tell any differences between them. @Prof. Cairo, could you enlighten me a bit, please?


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