Infographic redesign (1): total CO2 emissions vs. per capita emissions

Having an eye on the #dataviz-Hashtag on Twitter, today I came across this infographic by Stanford Kay showing absolute CO2 emissions of each country versus the per capita emissions of that country. It looks quite nice, playing with that „footprint“ image, but as I wanted to compare how single countries were doing in this comparison – I struggled; and thought about how to do it better. Here’s with what I came up with:

Since I took the „Introduction into Infographics“ MOOC by Alberto Cairo last year, I’m looking at such infographics with a different view. In this special case, it is really hard (for me) to compare one country’s performance „in the left foot“ with it’s performance „in the right foot“. Furthermore size of bubbles are hard to compare, and I don’t get a feeling for the values behind it.
And since the data stories workshop by Christina Elmer, I’m not afraid of dealing with multi-sheeted, hundrets-of-rows-long-tables, that each contain just one piece of information I’m looking for.

I thought of how to do it better, while collecting the data for my visualization from the World Bank [absolute CO2 emissions by country and per capita CO2 emissions by country; Kay used older data from 2007 (?) (as far as you can tell, the „source“ line on the graphic is a little fuzzy) and collected them from an US administration].

While cleaning and arranging the data (i.e. merging both tables; adding further rows with metadata; eliminating years, I was not interested in; eliminating all countries that did not have data for years 2005 to 2010 and also deleting summaries for continents, income groups etc that where on the same level as countries), I decided to try to do a slope graph: Not only because I always wanted to try, but because I think with this kind of visualization you would easily be able to compare the „trend“ for each country.

Based on my data set (feel free to use it for your own visualizations) I did a row of rankings and visualizations in Excel, here’s my graphic output:

1. Ranking of largest CO2-emitting countries in absolute numbers vs. per capita numbers

country ranking absolute vs per capita - twitter

2. Absolute CO2-emission by country 2005 vs. 2010

co2 abs

3. Per capita CO2-emission by country 2005 vs. 2010

per capita

Of course, these are neither perfect. It would be great to have most of them faded grey, and highlighting the most striking ones; perhaps having a similar colour grouping (by region) as Kay uses it [disclaimer, a late one: I’m not a graphic designer though, and as far as I know, I would have to format every single of the 196 lines by hand. I’m not (yet) that dedicated].

Having the whole thing interactive would be even better – so that you could move your mouse over one line (which then gets highlighted) and see ranking as well as absolute/per capita numbers. One could also go into further detail by analyzing smaller time steps or wider time scales. Or rearrange the visualization by calculating the difference between – let’s say – absolute amount of CO2 emissions in 2005 and 2010 and then rank the whole thing by that difference; the graphic then should be a little more tidy and less chaotic.

What do you think on this? How would you approach a redesign? And (I don’t hope so, but just to be sure) have you spotted any mistakes I made accidentally? Or do you have a clue whether it is possible to format labelling of a group of data series at once in Excel?


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