Lindsay Pack

As a connoisseur of all things visual design, I often find myself poring over strong examples of data visualizations for inspiration. But, as in life, sometimes it’s the mistakes and failed attempts that teach us the best lessons about what works and what doesn’t. That’s why when I stumbled across this website, it quickly became one of my go-to tools for learning about what to avoid in the graphics I design. Updated daily, the site compiles data visualizations that make no sense in the hope that designers everywhere will take note and not repeat the same mistakes.

Take this attempt for example:


There are a number of “don’ts” we can take away just by quickly glancing at this graphic:

  1. Don’t add graphical elements for the sake of adding graphical elements – Make your choices clear and meaningful. A thumbs-up could mean that people have been successful using these fundraising methods or that they approve of their use in a certain situation. If the graphical element you’ve included doesn’t help you get your message across in a clear way, get rid of it.
  2. Don’t tell the wrong story about your dataEnsure that the way you’ve represented your data doesn’t diminish its accuracy. If the tip of the thumb in the graphic above is 88% and the bottom part of the hand is 86%, then why does the bottom part look bigger? And, if these are parts of a whole, then why don’t the percentages add up to 100%? To keep your graphic clear, figure out what your message is first and let that guide your design choices.
  3. Don’t leave your audience hanging – If your graphic leaves your audience asking questions, something is wrong. The graphic above leaves us wondering what entity these percentages represent—do 87% of fundraising organizations rely on direct mail for fundraising or do 87% of people prefer to be approached for funding via direct mail? Run your visualization through a check to make sure that every component comes across clearly and accurately.

Bad examples of data visualizations can be the best learning tool. Knowing first what not to do can save your readers from confusion and yourself from internet shame.