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Pixels Are The New Pies

An interesting infographic trend: Square blocks of color are now being used to represent percentage-based statistics instead of the traditional pie chart. Some recent examples are shown here.
Square Charts
The chart on the left is from a NY Times story on atheism and the afterlife, making its choice of colors seem a little weird. And is that empty white block in the center supposed to represent the empty hole in our souls? On the right, a detail from a Wired story on how much Americans spend on gadgets. Charles M. Blow created the graphic for the Times; Arno Ghelfi did the honors for Wired.
This switch raises some interesting questions.

  • Is the square format more familiar to readers now because of the preponderance of the pixel in pop culture?
  • There’s a lot of leeway in choosing the shape of individual regions, since the only constraint is that they use the proper number of squares — what are the best practices here?
  • Finally, a productive use of all that time spent playing Tetris?
  • How come it took so long to figure out that pie charts are pretty hard to actually glean data from?
  • Was there a “Designing For Print” conference somewhere six months ago where a speaker made a particularly compelling case for squares over circles?
    Somewhat obliquely related, my series of posts last year on 100 Perfect Pixels, featuring Nike Plus, Amazon’s Gold Box and Vox’s Neighborhood.
Anil Dash

Anil Dash

Building @Glitch 🎏 — the friendly community creating the best stuff on the web • humane + ethical tech advocate • I 💜 funk, civics, mangos, justice & people • he/him

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