How a data guy cooks a Thanksgiving dinner!

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Here in the US, we're preparing to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. Therefore  this Thursday most families in the US will be having a big turkey dinner. Although I'm a bachelor guy and eat out all the time, I'm actually a pretty good cook - and I'd like to share with you some of my turkey cooking tips ... cooking the turkey data, that is! ;-)

But before we get started, here's a picture of my oven. When I first bought my house (in year 2000) I gave it a good cleaning ... and I still haven't gotten it dirty again! :-)

A few years ago, I found this pleasantly eye-catching graph about the traditional Thanksgiving holiday dinner:

It was a decent graph done in good taste, but like any self-respecting cook I couldn't help but make a few changes to their recipe. I carefully considered the ingredients for a good graph, and stewed on it a while. I wanted to serve up the data in a way that it was easy to digest, but still looked delicious.  After slaving away over a hot computer for several hours, I finally rolled out my new creation ...

Here are a few of the key ingredients in my recipe for a good graph:

  • I added "for 10" to the title, so you'll know how many people the $50 dinner is for (a very important detail, eh?)
  • I added light reference lines, so it's easier to see whether the prices are increasing or decreasing.
  • I added markers along the plot line - this way it's easier to see if an increase is one year, or multiple years, for example.
  • I started the price axis at zero (rather than 10), so you can perceive the changes visually as more of a percent.
  • I added the '$' format to the values on the price axis, so it's easier to tell that the values are in dollars.
  • I put the axis tick marks on the outside of the axes, rather than the inside.
  • I added year labels to the right-side of the bottom axis, and I make them a lighter color so they show up against the dark background image.
  • And I made the footnote (showing the data source) larger, so people can actually read it! :-)

What are you planning to have for Thanksgiving dinner, and how does the price estimate in the graph compare to your costs?

 

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About Author

Robert Allison

The Graph Guy!

Robert has worked at SAS for over a quarter century, and his specialty is customizing graphs and maps - adding those little extra touches that help them answer your questions at a glance. His educational background is in Computer Science, and he holds a BS, MS, and PhD from NC State University.

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