Sunday, January 23, 2011

"make it in 3D"

That was a reference to a pie chart that nearly caused me to lose it in the office. This occurred several months back at and I'm now reflecting on it since I stumbled across this link I had tabbed for my favorite places for choosing a good chart. Plus, my rage has since cooled off as well.

One of the engineers was doing a run-through of a presentation for a project he had worked on and in the course of his presentation had used a pie chart to display some data. Perhaps a pie chart was not the optimal way to portray the data, but it was passable. He had to present to others later on and we (myself, other manager types) were there to give him feedback. During the feedback, one of the others said that the pie chart should be in 3D because it would look better. What? And then someone agreed with that sentiment. WTF? I was so shocked, I almost didn't interject, but eventually asked, "How would a 3D pie chart look better?" Think on that for a minute while I wander through an aside.

I think I need to explain that I strongly dislike fancy graphics, animations, and otherwise nonsense effects in presentations, especially internal presentations like this one was designed to be. Information on the slides should be clear and concise and the presenter should use his or her voice and hand gestures and presence to convey the rest of the information. You need to accept the fact that your audience will stare at your slides and read everything on them even if you're still on the first line. Thus, information conveyed on the slide itself should be tightly controlled and well explained through the verbal aspect of the presentation. Walls of text on a slide are awful, so is a needlessly complicated graphic. Your audience will spend more time on each of those things trying to ferret out the information instead of listening to your spoken words. Aside over.

The answer to my question is that a 3D pie chart would not look better. All it would do is give the circle some depth and make it like a very squat cylinder seen almost end-on. If anything, such a visual effect would slightly distort the shape of the pie pieces. No additional information will be conveyed by giving depth to the pie chart, therefore it is unnecessary. Sadly, this person kept insisting on the sexing up of the presentation for the sake of management that would see it. I argued that they would care much more about the presenter's enthusiasm and passion than a stupid 3D pie chart.

At this rate we'll all be wearing Power Balance wristbands.

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