Steve Jobs and Circular Visualisations (Not Just Pie Charts)

Pie charts have been having a bad time of it lately* and I can’t see things improving anytime soon.

In one of the better articles looking at this humble chart, Brian Suda notes not only at what you can do instead, but what improvements you can make if you’re forced to use the pie chart.

The original idea behind a pie chart is that it represents parts of a whole, each sliver or wedge is a section, when totaled gives you the overall picture. Over the years pie charts have morphed purely into eye-candy, exemplified by their sister graph the doughnut chart, which offers zero additional information.

If we look at a few examples, you will quickly see the failings in the circular design along with how easy it can be used to misrepresent data.

One such example of how a pie chart can be used to misrepresent data was Steve Jobs’ keynote at Macworld 2008–as discussed in Suda’s article and over at The Guardian.

* Seth Godin called pie charts “spectacularly overrated” and Seed said we need to “get past the pie chart”.