Quick Look: Financial Times EU Bank Tests

This interactive graphic shows the full results of the European banks’ stress tests published on Friday by the European Banking Authority.

European stress tests 2011 (pay wall)

NYTimes Uses Photos to Show How Much Soda Americans Drink

Today’s New York Times Sunday Review features a trio of static graphics and an interactive timeline that accompany a piece by food critic Mark Bittman titled “Bad Food? Tax It, and Subsidize Vegetables.” The charts incorporate actual photographs of both liters, cans, and 20 oz bottles of Coca-Cola and Pesi products. The effect of these real photos impresses the article’s readers with just how much sugared and diet soft drinks Americans consume, but the cut-out images and their real-life lighting make the charts look a little rough.

The goal of the charts is to illustrate this passage from the article in particular:

The average American consumes 44.7 gallons of soft drinks annually. (Although that includes diet sodas, it does not include noncarbonated sweetened beverages, which add up to at least 17 gallons a person per year.) Sweetened drinks could be taxed at 2 cents per ounce, so a six-pack of Pepsi would cost $1.44 more than it does now.

The Times’ staff did a good job capturing the photographed images of the soda bottles that are the centerpiece of two of the graphs. The images were captured against a white background, so there was no need to carefully cut out each bottle and separate it from its photograph’s background. Still, the real life images when set next to computer-produced graphs and texts looks jarring. This is especially true of the Pepsi chart below. The bottle image sits just a little too close to the info graphs.

Beyond the photos, the charts are straightforward. The narrow, tall chart uses two line graphs to juxtapose the increasing price of a pack of cigarettes and the decreasing portion of Americans who smoke. Because the two graphs have an identical date domain (the years covered in each graph. In this case 1970 to 2007), the designer surely was tempted to layer the two trends onto a single graph. I’m glad he didn’t. In addition to being confusing to read, the y-axis and its different meanings for each line would have been more difficult for the reader to quickly comprehend. The actual lay-out’s stacked graphs nicely emphasize the chasm that has grown between the price of packs and the number of users.

Speaking of the graphs themselves now, notice how the designer chose to display that date domain we were just talking about. ’70, ’80, ’90, ’00, each connected with a line underneath the number. A more traditional method would place the year numbers underneath the line that signifies zero or a base number on which the actual data can be compared. In this more traditional graph, from the zero line to $2 is an identical amount from the $2 to $4 line. By choosing to place the numbers above the “base line” of the graphs, we lose that sense of groundedness that give the undulating line its meaning. Without that clear base, the smoking graph could be represent a range of prices from $10 to $14 instead of the actual $1 to $4.

So three nice sets of graphs that achieve their primary goal of making Americans like myself sick of our eating habits (I write this as I crack open a Coke Zero). But there are a few minor points in the layout of the domain of dates that really confuse the reading of the line graphs.

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