!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: The Case for 2-D Graphics

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Case for 2-D Graphics

Graphs with a gratuitous third dimension have always been one of my pet peeves — since they reduce clarity — but I'm not a professional graphic artist, so I'd hesitate to sound off on my own. It turns out, I don't have to. As Brad DeLong would say, I can outsource to Garr Reynolds, an acknowledged expert on the art of presenting well:

Question: Why do you think 2-D graphs are better than 3-D graphs?

Answer: 3D charts and graphs are very popular with consumers, but in almost every case it is preferable to use 2-D graphics to display 2-D data. Charts with 3-D depth and distortion usually make things harder to see, not easier. Some of the precision is lost. There is beauty in the simple display of the data itself, there is no need to decorate with distorted perspectives. If the graphic is just for showing the roughest of general trends, then there is nothing really wrong with a 3-D chart I suppose, but when you are trying to show a true visual representation of the data in the clearest way possible, a simple chart without 3-D adornment is usually better.

Source: "Ten Questions with Garr Reynolds," a post from the blog of Guy Kawasaki, also a presentations expert. (Another interesting Kawasaki interview is the one he conducted with Chip and Dan Heath, co-authors of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.)