Random AsidesSkepticism

Bad Chart Thursday: Graphic Dump

We’ve featured and created some truly terrible charts in this column, but some of the worst never make the cut. In most cases, these are charts that are awful in such obvious ways that there’s really not much to say about them. So I tuck them away in a miscellaneous folder in case I can find some use for them in the future.

Well, the future is here, my friends. I’m running low on hard drive space, and I’m not about to delete my carefully curated LEGO porn collection, so some of these charts have to go. For your cringing pleasure, I bring you four of my favorite examples of hilariously bad chart making.

First up, for those craving pie with high irony content, is this chart created by Aid Watch as part of a post entitled “Worst in Aid: The Grand Prize”:


I genuinely thought that the post was about the worst chart about aid, but no. The article is discussing why the 3D approach to aid (integrating development, defense, and diplomacy) is in practice the worst approach, and the chart is intended to demonstrate where US Official Development Assistance (ODA) money goes. It’s completely understandable how the data produced this mess in the first place, but why didn’t they even try to clean it up? How is it possible that at least two people, the coauthors of this post about the worst in aid, signed off on a chart that is itself likely to be the worst in aid-related data visualization?

This next pie chart was created as part of a semi-creepy digital Valentine by Piktochart for people who want to say, “I love you almost as much as I hate math, science, and grammar.”

Cup of tea valentine

Safety note: I’m 120 percent certain that if the person you love is running a temperature of 60 degrees C, you should probably send an ambulance (or the coroner), not a valentine.

But even when the facts are correct, such as in a diagram of human-horse homologies, the presentation can be . . . problematic, as in this image from a French textbook recently shared by Tim Ireland (@bloggerheads) on Twitter:

Horse man

Twitter is in fact an excellent source for really crappy charts but not so great for verifying their origin, which is the reason many delightfully terrible charts get relegated to my miscellaneous folder. The chart that follows was purportedly sent in an email to @MichaelWhitney from the National Republican Congressional Committee in October. The email text is as hilarious as the classy clipart chart:


If this is a genuine NRCC fundraising email, then “Jon” has a reason to be concerned about the downtrend in tiny money icons being donated to the Republican organization. Yet the complete absence of actual numbers on the y-axis makes it difficult to determine just how many money icons it takes to buy a gavel icon. Is Michael Whitney hoarding all the Republican clipart? Maybe he’d be willing to trade it for a Best Fonts of the ’90s value pack.

If he doesn’t, then we all know what will happen:

Donkey Kong pauline

Do you want that to happen, Michael?

Melanie Mallon

Melanie is a freelance editor and writer living in a small town outside Minneapolis with her husband, two kids, dog, and two cats. When not making fun of bad charts or running the Uncensorship Project, she spends her time wrangling commas, making colon jokes, and putting out random dumpster fires. You can find her on Twitter as @MelMall, on Facebook, and on Instagram.

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  1. The remade Donkey Kong graphic reminds me, people forget Mario is the villain in that game: Donkey Kong is Mario’s pet, who kidnaps Pauline as revenge for years of abuse.

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