November 19, 2008, 11:32 am
Up in Smoke
By Lisa Agustin
GOOD magazine offers an interactive visualization illustrating where people in the U.S. are still smoking — an interesting question, given recent smoking bans in eating and drinking establishments. Roll over a state to see which bans are in place (none, workplace, restaurant, bar), what percentage of the state’s population smokes, and the price for a pack of cigarettes. The state’s national ranking with regard to number of smokers and pack price are also presented. Overall, it’s a good approach: users can focus on single states, and also get a nationwide picture of bans and smoking populations. But I found the use of visual metaphors — a cigarette for smoker percentage and a pack of cigarettes for the pack’s price–to be distracting. (I originally mistook the cigarette as a bar graph measuring two different variables.) For example, it’s unclear if a cigarette that extends the full width of the column equals 100%, and what the tallest pack of cigarettes cost (my guess was $7.00). A better approach would be to eliminate the symbols, and place the percentage and cost closer together so the user can review them as a pair, with national figures placed closer to each for comparison.
It appears that the largest size cigarette and pack symbols are standardized to the largest value in the nation. Roll over New York and the pack size stays the same as it is when you have not rolled over anything. Note that its national rank is 1st. Roll over Kentucky and it appears the cigarette cannot get any wider. So the largest size pack and cigarette symbols are likely to mean $6.52/pack and 28.6% respectively. Of course, you are still correct that this is not at all made clear.
Posted by Michael Niggel on November 19, 2008 at 1:07 pm