In addition to the clock graph, another form of graphic that seems to have been quite popular in the early 1900s is the Ranking (or Rating) Chart. Here, I have plucked two examples. The first is from Calvin Schmid’s Handbook of graphic presentation (1954) and the second from our old friend Brinton’s Graphic Methods for Presenting Facts (1914). In a ranking chart, items or categories are placed in order (generally in a vertical fashion) based on frequency or magnitude. In the case of our first chart, marital grievances are ranked in descending order according to intensity for both husbands and wives. To see if there is any relation, a line is drawn that connects identical grievances from each list. The further the line deviates from horizontal, the less agreement the two parties have on that particular grievance. (Perhaps there should have added another line: “way partner ranked grievances”.)
I quite like this graphic… at least partly because it appears as if not a whole lot has changed in terms of Marital Happiness since 1938. We still hear these types of complaints about our friends’ partners (no, I’m not talking about anyone particular. gosh!). Modern-day additions might be “uses smart phone at dinner table” or “hasn’t changed relationship status on Facebook”. Otherwise, these grievances seem—as David Byrne might say—”same as they ever were”. One question here though: what has the author encoded in the line type that is connecting the two lists? Level of agreement? It’s tough to say.
Here is a time series ranking chart showing state and territory population in the US from 1860 to 1900. Some trends can be seen in this chart: steady high population in NY, PA, OH and IL, while some Midwestern and Western states have growing population. I have to wonder, though: is this data better suited for a set of maps in small multiples? I find this web of tangled lines fairly difficult read. Nevertheless, unlike some forms of charts and graphs, I believe an effective ranking chart may not necessarily have an immediate impact on the reader. Instead, further inspection may be required. With a simple glance at the Marital Happiness chart, for example, a reader may not be able to deduce much of anything. But with closer look, he or she might start notice that lines appear to be straighter at the top and bottom of the chart, with the middle looking more criss-crossy. Without knowing the exact grievances, the reader is able to deduce that at least husbands and wives can more or less agree on the BIG and small stuff… right? Right?