Bad Graphs in the Wild

Is this intentionally misleading?

I recently used this example as a source of interview questions, so I thought it would be worthwhile to write it down.

At the grocery store yesterday, I found this laminated graph in front of the egg refrigerators. I laughed out loud and immediately snapped a photo. There were other people around me and they seemed confused by my photography - hopefully they didn’t think the graph was helpful! I know the photo is only black and white above, but the printing was only black ink on white paper anyway.

I think this “informative” data is intentionally misleading.

  • Why is there no Y-axis unit? Is the unit “Cost?”
  • What is the baseline for the Y-axis? One dollar? 0%? One half of a Euro?
  • Is the unit spacing on the Y-axis linear or logarithmic or exponential or something else?
  • Why are the months on the X-axis unevenly spaced?
  • What is the relative price change in other goods? Maybe all food has risen in price the same relative amount.
  • Avian influenza is mentioned. When did that affect the price of eggs? There is no time of inflection.
  • Does this data belong to this year?
  • It is now nearly the end of August. What has the price been like the last 3 months?
  • What is the source of this data?

It was a fantastic source of questions for potential data visualization engineers today!