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Mashed data visualization for holiday analysts

Among the visarazzi— data visualization’s foot soldiers, scientists and evangelists—”chart junk” is a no-no. If you make a bar chart about trees, for example, don’t for god sakes actually show drawings of trees. That would be silly.

However, the visarazzi probably don’t mean to prohibit chart junk food.

Tableau VP of marketing Elissa Fink has made what we might call a mashup. She presents data with pictures in Tableau Desktop. The fact that mashed potatoes has a high ratio of fiber to fat, for example, is appropriately and artfully augmented with a slim photo.

What a purist would reject as chart junk actually adds to our understanding by reaching us on the level at which we actually know food and intuit its truest qualities. Food is more than data. It is sensation, association and even celebration. The pumpkin pie photo, for example, reminds the analyst of the nourishing fiber that makes itself known in every mouthful. Pumpkin pie, in fact, packs far more fiber than the lowly brussels sprout.

Besides, what harm does that tiny photo do to the chart, especially a chart that appears just once a year?

So go ahead, trust the data. Have that second slice.

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