Data Visualisation Critique Wk 3: Mexico’s Drug War Visualised

This info-graphic comes from The Guardian’s Data Blog which in turn has taken it from the drugs blog Rehab International

For this kind of news, the graphic color scheme works really well. It’s a gory subject and the use of red against a dark background is very effective in communicating the violence of the content. With the bright red, we immediately understand that it is conveying danger/deaths.

By restricting the color scheme to only a few, solid, dark colors, the graphic is easy to read and they have found a novel way to represent fairly archaic tools such as bar charts (using pistols) and pie charts (using rings instead of solid  circles).

The color scheme on the map showing the number of homicides by state works because it is intuitive. It goes from grey to bright red and without looking at the key, we can make the association that the redder the state is, the bloodier it is, i.e  it has a greater number of homicides.

Where it begins to get a little muddy is when we scroll below and are introduced to the different cartels and the areas they control. Using the rule of seven, it becomes difficult to remember the colors for each cartel. Here, there are nine. We have to keep referring back to the key to see which cartel they are talking about in the description and what area on the map they control.

The text explaining each cartel’s history and leader is also very effective. The presentation is no-nonsense and the text color corresponds to the area colors on the map key, helping us associate where each cartel operates. However, the tiny graphics illustrated next to the text are pretty distracting and don’t really serve any purpose other than to make the presentation a little more vivid. The use of skulls and crossbones takes away from the seriousness of the crimes, falling into the very trap the earlier stats had managed to avoid, looking cartoon-esque.


One thought on “Data Visualisation Critique Wk 3: Mexico’s Drug War Visualised

  1. SEM says:

    I like your point about the appropriateness of the color scheme, and agree about the distraction caused by the presence of the smaller graphics in the cartel histories. However, I felt much the same way about the guns in the bar chart/timeline at top. As you point out, the topic at hand is quite somber, and I would have preferred to see more meaningful connections made among the various events illustrated on the chart, in at least some attempt to make sense of the overall patterns of violence. Nice critique.

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