So when I did the My Life on Drugs post I knew little about making infographics. In fact I was struggling to call it an “infographic” or a “data viz” or just a chart. I still don’t know what exactly I should call it. But I’ve learned a thing or two about the quantitative display of information. I’ve studied Beautiful Evidence and Visual Display of Quantitative Information both by Edward Tufte. There are many, many revisions I’ve considered and I’ve just now finished revising My Life On Drugs. There’s even a new title: Medical Lifeline. Without further introduciton here it is. [Please click to enlarge.]
There’s a lot to share about his revision. The first is that I’ve eliminated the evenly spaced time series on the x-axis and replaced it with one that requires a grouping. The grouping above may appear arbitrary but it isn’t. The grouping is meant to give more weight to the far right, most recent years and to consolidate the earlier ones. The spacing goes from covering 18 years to only one at a time. The geometrical issue at hand is that the My Life On Drugs could easily afford to overlap the drug names because their y-position wasn’t fixed. The revision looks a lot cleaner and hopefully more appealing.
The area above the drug names can easily be used for small notes, as can the area below the time groupings. Below the time groupings is probably a good area to add major life events like graduations, marriages, children, job loss, moves, etc…
Another element I’ve changed is the pie chart legend. I think I’ve been convinced from my recent study of Tufte’s work that pie charts aren’t really very good. It may have looked cool but I’ve eliminated it. As you can see I’ve accomplished communicating the same information with less ink.
It’s not intuitive but a lot of times making a visual display of information better requires erasure as opposed to additions or clever elements like pie chart legends.
As simple as the graphic is, and as obvious as the idea, I have yet to see medical histories displayed like this. It would be nice if there were some sort of visual standard for displaying a medical history. This revised and updated version is more more suited to establishing a line of thinking than my first attempt.
My next revisions will be the 10 Years of Crohn’s. Lots of work to do there and I’ve still got two of Tufte’s books to read!