Ugly Real Economic Growth Chart from Singapore Statistics.

The folks from SingStats seriously need to improve their charts. I could hardly make any sense out of these charts. They seem to be just thrown together with out any theme or purpose.

Singapore Statistics have the most amazing numbers on Singapore. Anything on our country’s GDP to how many handphones we have on average can be found. But the folks from SingStat seriously need to improve their charts.

Take a look here (

I could hardly make any sense out of these charts. They seem to be just thrown together with out any theme or purpose. After all the work of collecting the data, if you can’t present data in a useful manner, it’s simply a waste of effort.

I took up the challenge to clean up this miserable chart using Excel, and try to show that beautiful charts can be useful to convey data in a clearer manner.

The improvements I made:

  1. The distinct shape of our total economy is much clearer as an area chart.
  2. The Manufacturing and Financial sectors are reduced to scatter chart with drop lines. The trends can still be discerned yet is less noisy compared to the original version.

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4 Responses

  1. Jon Peltier has written a critique on this topic. I’m quite amused by it. Will come up with a story when I get the time.. 🙂

    1. It’s a bit unfair that you did not include the final version (Panel chart) of Jon Peltier’s redesign, especially since your respons is a sort of panel chart.

      Also, a few questions about your final design:
      – In your final redesign, why did you add a grey background? Personally, I think the white background is cleaner and to me more “aesthetical”.
      – Why did you change the legende from Manufacturing to Construction?
      – Why did you go for an area chart? In the panel construction and financial, isn’t the area a bit confusion since they overlap? F.x. whether they add up to the sum of the two or not.
      – I’m not an economist, but isn’t three years between downturns and not four in 1998-2001?
      By these questions, I really just wonder what your basic design philisophy is.

      As for the chart: What I feel that neither the original nor your redesign captures, is some interesting data that is lacking in the chart:
      – How much of the total economy is Manufacturing + Financial?
      This would indicate whether the total economy depends on the result of manufacturing and financial sectors, or whether manuf. and fin. only reflects the overall trends in the total economy.

      -And is this a stable or changing (growing) economy?
      Since the charts only show changes, it’s ahrd to see whether the overall trend is an growing economy or if it’s fairly stable. It also just shows three years with negative growth; and the chart made me courius whether this is typical for the previous years as well.

      One final comment: Jon Peltier linked to your post when he did an redesign of your chart. Since you know have “commented” on his redesign, it think it would be fair to link back. Especially since you did not include his final design, but also because it is common courtesy to credit the author and you should always site your sources in such a way that the reader can check them out for themself.

  2. I’m glad you’ve decided that timelines work better than the “sunflower” or “lollipop” styling (circle on a stick). Timelines are much easier to follow. Separating the constituents from total makes sense as well, though noting that financial plus manufacturing comprise only about 1/3 of the entire economy would help to put them into perspective.

    The fat lines and gradient fill below the lines are still more formatting than you need, and I agree with Anders that a white background is cleaner.

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