Tag Archives: reference line

McDonald’s knows how to sell fast food, but they don’t know how to do info viz.

As an info viz junkie I was excited to see McDonald’s using incell bar charts on their food wrappers. Here’s an image off of a cheeseburger wrapper.

mcdonalds_cheeseburger_bar

incell bar chart

As a Stephen Few fan, however, I know that a key ingredient to high quality info viz is simplicity–it’s got to be easy to understand. To that end, what in the world does the dashed vertical line spanning calories through sodium represent? It looks like it’s set to 33%, but why? Is that some magic number in the world of nutrition? Is 33% “crossing the line” for a single item on their menu? There’s ample room for an explanation of the reference line on the wrapper, but none is provided.

McDonald’s has missed the mark on a few other things on their graphics. The icons to the right of each item are meaningless and the heavy border surrounding each item detracts from the data, but the reference line to me is the real head scratcher.

McDonald’s has a great opportunity to educate their customers about how the calories/sodium/protein/fat/carbs they’re eating right now fit into their overall daily intake of calories/sodium/protein/fat/carbs. I get the sense that the incell bar charts are an attempt to simplify this information, which is great. But their attempt comes up short because they didn’t explain the reference line.

Lastly, has anyone else seen these graphs on their wrappers at McDonald’s? I’m curious if this is a local test. I live near Philadelphia, PA.

BTW, I posted this entry to Stehpen Few’s blog. Here is his response.

McDonald’s knows how to sell fast food, but they don’t know how to do info viz.

As an info viz junkie I was excited to see McDonald’s using incell bar charts on their food wrappers. Here’s an image off of a cheeseburger wrapper.

mcdonalds_cheeseburger_bar

incell bar chart

As a Stephen Few fan, however, I know that a key ingredient to high quality info viz is simplicity–it’s got to be easy to understand. To that end, what in the world does the dashed vertical line spanning calories through sodium represent? It looks like it’s set to 33%, but why? Is that some magic number in the world of nutrition? Is 33% “crossing the line” for a single item on their menu? There’s ample room for an explanation of the reference line on the wrapper, but none is provided.

McDonald’s has missed the mark on a few other things on their graphics. The icons to the right of each item are meaningless and the heavy border surrounding each item detracts from the data, but the reference line to me is the real head scratcher.

McDonald’s has a great opportunity to educate their customers about how the calories/sodium/protein/fat/carbs they’re eating right now fit into their overall daily intake of calories/sodium/protein/fat/carbs. I get the sense that the incell bar charts are an attempt to simplify this information, which is great. But their attempt comes up short because they didn’t explain the reference line.

Lastly, has anyone else seen these graphs on their wrappers at McDonald’s? I’m curious if this is a local test. I live near Philadelphia, PA.

BTW, I posted this entry to Stehpen Few’s blog. Here is his response.