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About 3D charts

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3D-charts may look fancy, but they easily distort the truth due to their display.
As a first example have a look at the simple pie chart below and try to estimate the sizes of the four groups that are show. Otherwise try to order the four groups by their relative sizes.

3D pie chart

Now have a look at the underlying data: pie chart of four groups.xls (Excel, 31 KB). Draw your own conclusions.

Here is a second example of the effects a 3D design can have. We show price indexes for gold and silver for a period of ten years, both in 2D and in 3D design. The first two graphs are made in SPSS, the third one in Excel. We leave the comments to the reader. Ask yourself the following questions:

Which of these graphs is the most impressive? Which one is the most informative?

2d price indexes gold and silver

3d price indexes gold and silver, with spss

3d price indexes gold and silver, with Excel

The moral of these examples

3D is meant to impress, not to inform people

(which of course is fine if being impressive is your goal with a graph.)

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Last modified 30-10-2012

© Jos Seegers, 2009; English version by Gé Groenewegen.