Front page of the paper
I saw this visualization on Friday, April 14th 2023, on the front page of the New York Times. It was an illustration for an article about increasing the use of electricity to tackle climate change in the United States. Unfortunately, the visualization is at best confusing. You can read the full article here: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2023/04/14/climate/electric-car-heater-everything.html
The message the article was trying to convey was a simple one: it was a modeling exercise for a more electrified US with lower energy consumption. The animations in the article made clear where electricity use would need to grow and roughly by how much.
Why the presentation is bad
The visualization is a sort of pie chart. In most cases, pie charts are very bad data visualizations, and this article compounds the problem by using a non-standard form.
Just looking at the charts, can you tell me what the percentages are for Transportation, Industrial, etc. now and in the "electrified future"? Can you tell me what's growing?
The article makes plain the modeling work is for reduced energy consumption. Looking at the two charts, can you tell me what the reduction is and over what timescale it occurs?
I could go on, but it's easy to see for yourself what's wrong. Look at the charts and tell me what you take away from them.
The article contains animations that make the message clearer, but even so, it took me a lot of work to figure out what was going on. This takes us to the major visualization sin here: the level of effort to understand what's going on is too high.
What's the takeaway?
You can get too clever with visualizations. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. Keep things simple and easy to understand.