Guy Kawasaki (Almost) Says 3-D Graphs Are Evil

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Guy Kawasaki posted Ten Questions with Garr Reynolds (author of Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery). Question number 10 (which, as it turns out, was not the last question, as, in an apparent nod to Douglas Adams, Kawasaki actually included 13 questions): “Why do you think 2-D graphs are better than 3-D graphs?”

Answer: 3D charts and graphs are very popular with consumers, but in almost every case it is preferable to use 2-D graphics to display 2-D data. Charts with 3-D depth and distortion usually make things harder to see, not easier. Some of the precision is lost. There is beauty in the simple display of the data itself, there is no need to decorate with distorted perspectives. If the graphic is just for showing the roughest of general trends, then there is nothing really wrong with a 3-D chart I suppose, but when you are trying to show a true visual representation of the data in the clearest way possible, a simple chart without 3-D adornment is usually better.

<sniffle>Pardon me while I wipe a tear from my eye.

I’ve ranted about 3-D charts and graphs before. And since. And a third time.

It’s not just me!

The only issue I have is with Reynold’s supposition that 3-D charts are okay for showing the roughest of general trends. I’d call that the same as saying it’s okay to unload your shotgun at some quail with a friend (or at least a large donor) within range of the spray of pellets. It’s not okay. It’s just not. Unless you are super-duper qualified (meaning you make a good living as a professional graphic designer or artist), don’t do it!

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