I am taking an Economics class. We are required to plot and interpret 2D graphs. But often we have to use oddly shaped functions or have additional constraints we have to impose that make interpreting the graph tricky.

I am used to working with words and theorems to prove things. But my professor wants me to be able to articulate economic insights largely using visualization and let the graphs speak for themselves to some extent.

Are there any resources that can explain what kinds of information usually expressed using words can be communicated visually using graphs?

  • $\begingroup$ Could you provide a "tricky" example (or a link to an example)? I am having difficulty imaging that interpreting an economics chart is more difficult than thinking about "$n$-dimensional situations." $\endgroup$ Apr 14, 2015 at 20:58
  • $\begingroup$ @JosephO'Rourke I have thought about and updated the question to clarify what information I am looking for. I think the newer version may be more clearly answerable. $\endgroup$ May 17, 2015 at 4:25

1 Answer 1


If we open up graphs to include infographics there's little you can't communicate, and when you say that you want to communicate insight that's what comes to mind. I don't have much insight to offer on creating complex infographics.

Read some Edward Tufte he's a leading expert in compact informative graphics.

The Grammar of Graphics by Leland Wilkinson is one of leading handbooks on informative visualizations. This book by Naomi Robbins is well reviewed. These are both highly technical.

As for graphing tools I've been using plot.ly lately and have been enjoying. Their blog is also pretty informative try reading here for some insight on how to use it to illustrate some interesting concepts through graphs.

  • $\begingroup$ My thought was to add some suggestions about communicating with graphs more generally. He asked about communicating insight graphically, and making graphs that convey lots of information. I don't think I could answer the question with any more specificity without getting deep into exactly what he wants to communicate. $\endgroup$
    – BBS
    May 17, 2015 at 21:08
  • $\begingroup$ +1 I thought it was helpful. $\endgroup$ May 18, 2015 at 1:00

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