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Data Viz in the Wild: How Much Sugar is in Your Snack Food

Data visualization at YMCA. Also, whats up with the sugar content in Grape Juice?!

I recently came across this great attempt at some data visualization at my local YMCA.


As you can see, the table display, using sugar packet as the unit of measurement, compares the sugar content of various common snack food items. But the reason why I think this was a good “attempt” is that there was one thing I wish it did to make this a really great chart rather than just a great attention-getter. I wish they kept a consistent baseline.

Why am I being so nit-picky? well, because ever since reading The Visual Display of Quantitative Information I’ve become a chart snob. But besides that, I’ve developed an appreciation for how much impact a good chart could have and how that impact is lessened by seemingly small details.


So for example, the biggest surprise take away for me on this was how much sugar is in a bottle of grape juice compared to the evil (but irresistible) Reese’s candy. If you take the time to count the packets, it’s Grape Juice: 8, Candy bar :5 . With a consistent baseline, this would’ve been immediately evident, especially if the sugar packets for the grape juice spill over the edge of the table.

But chart snobbery aside, the staff at this YMCA deserves some kudos for this kind of guerilla data viz.

More of it I say.

Andrew Davies

Drew's degrees in Illustration, 2D animation and Broadcast Design, and his volleyball skillz mean he can get your design done and play well with others at the same time. He’s the Creative Director at Paragon and will call you out if you start hanging out with shady-looking fonts and messing around with whacked-out color palettes.