“Chart junk” is a term coined by data visualization expert Edward Tufte to refer to elements of a chart or graph that do not add value to the data being presented, but rather serve only to distract or confuse the viewer. These elements might include unnecessary grid lines, 3D effects, or decorative flourishes, among others.
According to Tufte, the use of chart junk can detract from the clarity and effectiveness of a visualization, making it more difficult for the viewer to understand the data being presented. He advocates for a more minimalistic approach to data visualization, with a focus on presenting the data in a clear and concise manner.
The concept of chart junk has been widely adopted in the field of data visualization, and is often cited as a best practice when it comes to designing effective charts and graphs. Many experts argue that the use of chart junk can lead to “chart clutter,” making it more difficult for the viewer to discern the key takeaways from the data.
While Tufte’s ideas on chart junk are not universally accepted, his work has had a significant influence on the field of data visualization and has helped to shape best practices for designing effective charts and graphs.
Presenting data to clients: When presenting data to clients, a management consultant might use the concept of chart junk to avoid cluttering the visualization with unnecessary elements. By focusing on presenting the data in a clear and concise manner, the consultant can help the client understand the key takeaways more easily.
Analyzing data: When analyzing data, a consultant might use the concept of chart junk to help identify the most important or relevant information. By eliminating unnecessary elements, the consultant can focus on the data that is most relevant to the problem at hand.
Communicating findings: When communicating findings or recommendations to a client, a consultant might use the concept of chart junk to help simplify complex information and present it in a way that is easy for the client to understand.
Designing charts and graphs: When designing charts and graphs, a consultant might use the concept of chart junk to guide their design choices and ensure that the visualizations are clear and effective.
Training clients: A consultant might also use the concept of chart junk to teach clients how to design effective charts and graphs, helping them to avoid common pitfalls and create visualizations that are clear and easy to understand.
- The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte
- Beautiful Evidence by Edward Tufte
- “Sharpen your Clutter Detector” by Stephanie Evergreen
- “The Secret of ‘Chartjunk’: Why Misleading Visualizations Aren’t Always Bad” by Tim Bock