Honestly, I expect better from TIME Magazine than the sort of amateur mistakes that plague amateur publications like the 34th Street annual sex survey (apologies for the picture quality – you can enlarge by clicking on it – and for repeating the word amateur, but not really, because it was intentional):
Listen: I get it. You make a lot of graphs, and they can’t all look exactly the same. But connecting randomly-distributed answers with colored lines is never the answer.
And while this atrocity occurred within the past month, design issues seem to have plagued TIME going back awhile. The following image is drawn from an issue printed in December 2008 (I don’t read these magazines in any semblance of chronological order, which explains how these two issues ended up being read back-to-back):
I’m sorry, but you can’t print ‘Report Card’ on one line, ‘A’ on another – by itself, in bright red (you’ll have to trust me on this one) – and have the five individual components average out to somewhere between C and C+. Imagine if you sent this report card home with an 8th grader. His parents would be so happy, and then they would be quite the opposite of happy – unless, of course, they were accustomed to something like D/D+, in which case they would be ecstatic, followed by merely elated. Either way, you’ve raised expectations and then dashed them. Look what you’ve done to those parents. It’s not nice what you’ve done to those parents.
8th grade, incidentally, is the reading level at which TIME is reportedly written. But just because your subscribers can’t read good is no excuse to accompany your elementary-school writing with ill-conceived and poorly-executed graphic illustrations.
When I first wrote about the 34th Street sex survey’s poor graphic design, some readers failed to note the fundamental flaw (the same one that appears in the December 2012 graph above). As a result, I was forced to compose a second post, detailing what I thought self-evident in the first, and which contained a graphical representation of my own making. I think a well-executed graph might similarly further the cause of clarity in this case: