Friday, July 31, 2009

Fun With Charts

Charts are typically used to clarify a subject. Computer programmers used to use flow charts to clarify the workings of a program, for instance. Organization charts can be used to describe working relationships within an organization. In the wrong hands, charts can be made to do the opposite.

This is a chart that purports to show the same information as this chart, the infamous spaghetti chart that House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner presented as being a process chart of the Democrats' proposed Federal health care system. As the author of this chart says:

So, to try and do my duty both to the country and to information design (a profession and skill you [Republicans in Congress] have loudly shat upon), I have taken it upon myself to untangle [Rep. Boehner's] delightful chart. A few notes:

- I have removed the label referring to "federal website guidelines" as those are not a specific requirement of the Health and Human Services department. They are part of the U.S. Code. I should know: I have to follow them.

- I have relabeled the "Veterans Administration" to the "Department of Veterans' Affairs." The name change took effect in 1989.

- In the one change I made specifically for clarity, I omitted the line connecting the IRS and Health and Human Services department labeled "Individual Tax Return Information."

Do Not Fuck With Graphic Designers

Over at Talking Points Memo a reader-contributed article discusses more ways of charting the current and proposed health care systems. Worth a read, I think, if only to educate yourself about how it's possible to obfuscate something with a chart.

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