Relative frequency of horizontal and vertical bar charts, and polar charts

Bar plots, my term for bar charts where the bars run parallel to the bottom axis, are much more common than column plots, where vertical bars rise perpendicularly from the bottom axis. Both of them are more common, I thought, than the many variations of what are generically called polar charts, but better known as pie charts (if they have a hole in the middle they are donut charts).

To quantify the ratios and frequency of these three plot types, I studied a small set of six reports: Baker McKenzie Cloud 2015, Berwin Leighton ArbConflict 2010, Carlton Fields CA 2013, DLA Piper RE 2017, Fulbright Jaworski Lit 2013, and Seward Kissel HedgeFund 2015.

The graphic below — a bar plot — was constructed by counting how many plots there are of each of the three kinds and dividing the per-plot-type sum by the number of pages in the report. Thus the percentages on the bottom axis are how many of each plot type there are per page of the report.

Let’s focus on one example to interpret the graphic. Baker McKenzie has more polar charts than any other type as its yellow segment (at the end) is the longest. Since the beginning of that segment aligns with approximately 0.40 and ends at 0.90, the segment is 0.50, so the report has one polar chart for every two pages. About every four pages it has a column plot, because the length of the blue segment is approximately 0.25 (one per four pages). Finally, the darkest segment, closest to the name of the survey, is approximately 0.15 horizontal bar plots per page, which means they appear in the report about every six pages. By contrast, Fulbright Jaworski uses only horizontal bar plots, since its bar has no blue portion, plus some polar plots.

With no pretense of their being representative of law-firm research survey reports, these six reports count 79 horizontal bar plots (57% of the total, rounded up), 23 columnar, vertical bar plots (17% of the total), and 37 polar charts (27%).

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