Pie Chart: Olympics Case Study

By September 1, 2016visualization

After my last post going over why pie charts are never a great choice, I of course stumbled across an example on ESPN.

I was checking out their coverage on the Olympics and they had a nice little visualization showing the top medal earners and break down between gold, silver, and bronze. You can see the visualization below.

Pie Example

I certainly can’t put down the aesthetics here. The donut pie charts look very sleek and simple, but getting any clear information from them is nearly impossible.

Looking at that first row of charts, you can’t tell what that breakdown really is. The US seems to have an even breakdown of medals, while China has a little more, but as you can see, we’re talking qualitatively, not quantitatively. Putting an actual number to each slice in the pie is far too hard.

The grid that you see at the bottom of the charts is far more effective at breaking down the medals for each country. Despite it not being as visually pleasing, if you wanted the actual numbers, the grid is wayyyy better than the pie.

Perhaps you could use a bar chart or something else here, but its important to note that sometimes, a grid is a good choice.