The drunken speedometer: the most dangerous chart alive

I have a soft spot for bad and seemingly hopeless charts and graphs. All they deserve a second chance, so I try to help them out of the gutter. The other day, I was roaming the dirty alleys of El Dorado Hills (don’t ask) when I saw it. The speedometer. Few charts are strong enough to endure so much rejection, and the speedometer, with its single leg, is weaker than most. I was going to help it, show it how Marketing people love it. But I had to lecture it about its drinking problem first. I helped it stand up and, lo-and-behold, it starts morphing right before me.

This is an adult fairy tale. This means that the speedometer looks better now, but it is not a beauty queen by any stretch of imagination. And it returns to its useless nature when sober. So, don’t let anyone see you with it unless it already had a few drinks.


The Drunken Speedometer uses the needle to display a time series, gets rid of the red-yellow-green color scheme and displays an alert. If you can’t get your boss/clients to come to their senses and remove the speedometers from the dashboards, at least try to make them a little richer.

I’d say the time series adds one star to a speedometer (1/5 to 2/5). Do you think the speedometer can/should be saved? Let me know in the comments below (if you still do that kind of thing).

The file is available in my Excel Charts Shop for only $9.99.

5 thoughts on “The drunken speedometer: the most dangerous chart alive”

  1. Surely you jest! Don’t let your feelings take over!
    Seriously, with real data (non-random) and variation within a narrower range probably this could make it a better chart (my honest opinion). That said, the increment wouldn’t make it an option for professional reporting. But there is always a place for it in the silly season.

  2. Amusing but not practical is it? The needle is a bit like a sparkline but I don’t know which way is up. Wouldn’t that change depending on whether it pointed left or right? Perhaps you could color the bottom half of the line to indicate below average or whatever.

  3. It sounds like you were drunk when you wrote this, and I have no idea what you are proposing here, but it does bring up some interesting propositions, which are likely all mine generated by inspirations from the squigglies, and I’ll keep them for a future post. If you get sober and want to explain what you are trying to show here, I’m watching!

  4. Desmo, unfortunately I can’t blame any alternative state of consciousness for this post. Maybe I should take a look at the post and the chart again. The idea is that speedometers are bad, but if your boss really wants to have them in a dashboard you can try to improve them by using the pointer to add a time series, showing where the pointer was pointing to in any given moment over the last, say, 12 months. So, one of the problems with speedometers (too focused on the moment) is solved. I don’t think this makes the speedometer bearable, I just think it sucks less.

    (Writing this while having my morning coffee.)

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