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Removing Chartjunk

Elizabeth Ricks takes out the trash:

Why is clutter so hard for us to let go of? Perhaps because we think something has always been there, so it must belong there and we’re afraid of what might happen if we eliminate it. Or perhaps we don’t have a good framework for evaluating whether something is useful or not. 

This same concept applies to our graphs and business communications. We tend to blindly accept the default settings of our tools and very rarely consider if the included elements actually have a purpose. The “Windows XP” question, in this case, is: does this element add enough informative value to make up for its presence?” 

This is one of the most important ideas Edward Tufte championed—other than “pie charts are dumb, so don’t use them”. I don’t completely agree with Tufte’s definition of the term, which is (paraphrasing and going by memory) any marking on the page not absolutely necessary to convey the most relevant details to a viewer. But in this post, Elizabeth shows quite a bit we could remove while losing no critical information.