How Class Works – Graphical Representation of Data

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The New York Times has a nice little graphic up, entitled How Class Works, which nicely illustrates how households moved between economic bands in a ten year period (1988 – 1998).

This gets right at one of my little side obsessions: when you’ve got a lot of complex data, how can you represent it graphically to provide a visually comprehensible overview? One of my favorite approaches is a topo map inspired thing that I use for a number of reports.

The linked report snapshot has time as columns (one month per column), and the possible data slots as rows; the greater the percentage of data that falls into a given cell, the darker the color of the cell. So simple as to seem pretty stupid when I try to explain it to people, this approach nevertheless lets me get a very solid idea of how the data is falling out within a given month, and how it’s trending over time, with just a glance at the report.