For many of us this is a provocative question. Haven’t Tufte, Few, Cleveland and many others proved that, beyond reasonable doubt? Isn’t there a prosperous industry based on the obvious usefulness of charts and information visualization? Is everyone wrong?

Let me play devil’s advocate here. A large majority of charts you’ll find in the corporate sector is irrelevant, if not misleading (check some annual reports for a grim picture). Corporate presentations are nothing more than futile rituals of impression management where the presenter gets his “wow factor” not from how insightful his presentation is, but from how cool the rendering of his 3D flying charts are. Serious managers will never use charts as decision support tools (“just show me the numbers”). Finally, there is scientific evidence that charts will not improve the decision quality (“naive superiority hypothesis”, according to this article).

So, give me a table report with some well chosen key indicators and leave charts to lazy marketers.

How would you respond to this?