The progression of world GDP - China vs. the U.S.

Whenever we present data, we should only include what’s necessary. We also need to focus our audience’s attention on the main points.

For this SWD Challenge to declutter and focus, I chose the chart below from the Bad Visualisations blog. It shows the global GDP share for countries and regions over time.

Is this modern art?

In a strange way I really like something about this chart - If we strip away the text and axes, it looks like something which wouldn’t look out of place at the Tate!

However, it’s hard to see what’s going on here. Nothing stands out - because everything stands out.

Also, I’m not sure what’s going on with the x-axis, it starts at 1 and goes from 1600 to 1913.

Declutter and focus

First of all I had to get hold of GDP data by country. The World Bank offers a great open data platform which includes many different metrics broken down by country.

The message the original chart was trying to get across was that China’s GDP has been growing tremendously over the last two decades. But this gets lost in all the noise.

By focusing only on the two largest economies - China and the U.S., It’s easier to notice China’s recent growth relative to the decline in U.S. share of GDP.

Looking through the World Bank’s wealth of data, I noticed that GDP per capita adds more context to the share of global GDP numbers. Which is why I included this as an additional chart.

Here is my submission: