Today’s improving infographic


The infographic in today’s City AM (reporting the sales growth and market shares of the major UK supermarkets) has taken some positive evolutionary steps forward since I last noticed a similar graphic in the same newspaper last September.

Look at September’s version below and ask yourself whether any of the following attributes encode anything of meaning:

  • The areas of the balloons
  • The heights of the balloons
  • The colours of the balloons
  • The order of the balloons


In addition:

  • Is it clear what the values in the balloons represent?
  • Does the graphic do a good job of supporting the headline “Discount Supermarkets Continue to Grow Market Share”?

I would argue that this infographic is simply a stylised table of numbers, rather than using visualization to convey insight to the reader.

So, what has improved in today’s version?

  • The graph is better labelled – we can now see more clearly that the values in the balloons represent market share, and the magnitude and direction of market share changes over the 12 week period are clearly stated
  • The size of each balloon now seems to bear some kind of relationship to the market share values, although this is very imprecise
  • The tags convey year on year sales growth figures and their movements quite well, although is it really necessary to triple encode the movement via colour of the text labels, colour of the arrows and direction of the arrows?

I will even try to forgive the unfortunate and no doubt accidental labelling of the y-axis of the trend chart plotting Tesco’s market share.

Perhaps next time around, the designer could also use the colour of the balloon in a useful way (for example to distinguish the discounters from the higher-end supermarkets).

I will return to the issue of encoding values as circles in a later post to this blog.


  1. Richard

    It does seem a completely missed opportunity not to tie the length of the balloon strings (i.e., the height of the balloons) to something – sales growth would seem a reasonable choice to me, showing which are the “leaders” in terms of growth.

    It was the size of the balloons that struck me straight away, though. Aldi’s balloon is bigger than Waitrose’s, yet has a smaller market share. Iceland’s balloon is the same size as Waitrose’s yet Waitrose’s market share is two and a half times larger!

    I wonder if it really counts as an improvement to imply the size of the balloon relates to market share but for the balloon sizes to then all be wrong…


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