Chart crimes are a daily occurrence in the world of finance and investing, and they can attract a great deal of attention. What is a chart crime? It is a deliberate attempt to mislead people who check out a chart. This often means manipulating start or end dates to show a particular outcome or cropping chart axes to make a small change seem bigger than it is in reality.
What is the opposite of a chart crime? One of the antonyms of crime is goodness. So let’s call charts that help elucidate an issue: ‘chart goodness.’ A good chart does more than illustrate a data series. It goes beyond that demonstrates insights that would never have been gleaned from raw or summary data.
An example of a good chart is from Michael Batnick at the Irrelevant Investor showing the drawdowns one would have had to endure to ride Walt Disney ($DIS) stock from its 1970 to today. The conclusion: very few people would have been able to ride out Disney’s swings over the past few decades. (Another great example of this phenomenon is a chart of Amazon ($AMZN) from its 1997 IPO to the near present. Again only the most committed could have enjoyed the ride.)
For whatever reason a handful of interesting charts, or graphics, came out in the last 24 hours that could reasonably be described as chart goodness. The following don’t have much, if anything, to do with investing but they are good illustrations of how a good chart (or graphic) really is more helpful than a bunch of prose. Please click through to see the actual charts at their homes on the Interweb.
- An interactive chart from Data Interview Questions shows the board member linkages among the top 50 companies in the S&P 500. 39/50 (or 78%), are directly connected to one another through 1 or more board members. (via Fast Company)
- I know you are probably sick of anything having to do with politics but this chart from Colin Woodard in the New York Times breaks down the 2016 presidential vote by 11 regions in the US. Something to think about for 2020.
- This Bloomberg piece looks at how all the land in the US is used (urban, cropland, timberland etc.) There are a number of insights including the fact that Weyerhauser ($WY) owns timberland nearly the size of the state of West Virginia.
- This chart from the Visual Capitalist shows the median age of every county in the US shows how America is aging. In short, a lot of older people live close to the Canadian border.
Putting together good graphics are more difficult than slapping one together willy-nilly. But the insights you glean are often worth the effort.