Makeover Monday Week 8 – Where Does Your Medicine Come From?

Over the past few months I’ve been getting involved with #MakeoverMonday, a weekly social data project that takes a look at some less than perfect data visualizations and looks to redesign them, either improving on the original, or by exploring new stories hidden within the dataset.

Starting with Week 8, I’ll be posting a blog post to accompany my submission, so I can write down my thought process and rationalise the steps I took.

The original viz

By just glancing at this viz we can immediately see who the big exporters of medicines and drugs are.   Including the values within the bubbles helps to add context, so that works well.

However, as the bubbles get smaller, the user has rely on text to read and compare, so any bubbles smaller than Hungary don’t really add anything.

I’m not sure if overlaying the bubbles over the map adds anything to the viz, to me it’s just more clutter.  The use of colour isn’t bad, but it really only serves to reinforce the bubbles.

My Viz

Normally my approach to makeover monday is to look for interesting stories, or cool ways to present the data.  This week’s dataset was fairly straightforward though, so I decided to stick with a simple bar chart but to supplement the medicine exports with medicine imports.  This revealed some really cool information.  Germany, for example, has barely any medicine imports, while a country like Ghana imports more medicine than any other country barring the US.

For a while I couldn’t decide whether to display the bars side-by-side or overlapping.  Ultimately I went with the latter option, partly because it saves space and allowed me to include more countries on my list and also because I kinda think they look thermometers or hypodermic needles?  Anyway, I’m happy with my choice.

I used consistently to make it clear which bar represents imports and which represents exports, I picked a black background because I normally just leave it white and fancied a change.  Red and white for the bars seemed to stand out the most on a black background, so I chose them for the bars (plus the whole thermometer/needle thing).

Lastly, I included a few annotations on some of the more interesting bars, to add a bit more context.  I like using text alongside the data instead of above or below, I think it’s a more efficient use of space although it can get cluttered if you use more than two or three annotations.

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