Surprise, surprise — De Amicis

Marius Popescu
2 min readJan 14, 2021

Part of the Tiny Graphics project, published by Marius Popescu for De Amicis.

Christmas and other family reunions are a challenge when it comes to healthy eating habits. You always add a kilogram or two (maybe even three). However, your weight chart is almost flat. There is no bump. How come?

While the holidays are in full and there’s an inflow of Christmas cakes, you begin to ignore the weight scale values. You might look at it and be a bit upset, and then the next lunch or dinner comes and you forget about it.

Weight chart showing entered data points and trend line, with a light blue line signalling the very probable weight bump in December (surprise: missing data)

When data begins to show a change of habits, sometimes we chose not to record it, or simply to ignore it. Because it will pass. This is a phase. It was a blip. However, for someone looking at your chart, and knowing, this will come as a (bad) surprise.

Your audience can be surprised by your graphic

The first case is when a chart doesn’t show all the data:

  • data is missing because you don’t have it or because you choose to not include it
  • data is misinterpreted because the analysis was not completed or you didn’t use all the data
  • the chart is missing important context which could explain your conclusions

In this case, you should review your choices regarding the data and its interpretation.

The second type of surprise is when the chart’s focus is not on what’s expected. You could be wrong about the conclusion. Or the data is “wrong” and leads your chart to a partial or incorrect conclusion. In this case, you need to look at your conclusion. Challenge it and try to show it’s wrong. Then improve your arguments or fix your graphic.

Of course, the good surprise exists too. This happens when the chart confirms your expectations and adds more arguments. This is when someone did her job and gave you a synthetic way to present your arguments. This is the way you become a part of the conversation through your graphics.

Your turn now

Are your graphics surprising? In a good, or in a bad way?

Send your questions and ideas via the Tiny Graphics mailing list.

PS

Avoid bad surprises! We are already mid-January and it is time to subscribe to receive the Tiny Graphics book for free (the waiting list is closing January 31st, 2021). After this date, the book will cost 19 €.

Originally published at https://de-amicis.com on January 14, 2021.

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Marius Popescu

Healthcare applications & integrated components: growth charts http://growthxp.com, family history http://pedigreexp.com and medical decision support systems