Beer Delivery Visualization

Time to tackle some of the more important parts of life. I saw this delivery schedule in a cooler at a DC Whole Foods. Bell’s Beer is from Kalamazoo and we take pretty big pride in our hometown beer. So we (I mean, I) get really geeked when Bell’s shows up during travels. But this delivery schedule? It’s not working for this data visualizationist (I just made that term up – how does it sound?).

chart of delivery for various Bell's beers

I couldn’t put my finger on precisely what bothered me so much about it, so I took a snapshot and mulled it over for a few weeks. Here is the revised chart I settled on.

Revised chart of Bell's Beer delivery

The revision still isn’t sitting right with me, but I’ll tell you what important changes I did make:

1. I reversed the order of the listings. Previously, the beers that are delivered year-round were closest to the headers listing the months. That meant that the ones that were the most narrowly distributed were furthest away from the month listings, making them the hardest to decipher. In the revised version, I also just put the month listings across the bottom of the chart, too. Why not?

2. The beers are in a very slightly different order, now depicted by the length of months they are on the market. Just adding a little more logic.

3. The labels over the bars make for less seek-and-find. Previously, the viewer would have to locate the desired beer label, trace the bar to the right, and then simultaneously locate the months across the top, traveling that information down the graph, to find where the paths crossed, just to determine if Favorite Beer was in stock. Too much. This way, we remove one element of difficulty in decoding the chart. Still, I’m unhappy with how I had to abbreviate the top two beers to make them fit in the label.

4. White background. The textured orange background (intended to be beer) was too busy and conflicted with the colors used to differentiate each bar. I’m not totally in love with my new color scheme, but it’s a step up.

If I had access to the beer label icons, I would have still placed them along the left side of the chart. That visual cue is important for the viewer to quickly identify the beer in question.

Leave a comment


  1. I like it! So much easier on the eyes. How long did it take you to develop the visualization from conceptualization(sp) to finish? I’m trying to work on my speed with getting visualizations completed.

    • Thanks, Karen! I think this probably took me two hours, from opening the Excel file to publishing it in this blog. However, I spent several weeks stewing on this one. I’m much quicker with more familiar chart types (bar, column, line, etc). I can see this type of display also working for Gantt charts and other data of that nature, which aren’t as common for me.

    • Stuart Henderson

       /  May 18, 2012

      Karen brings up an interesting point. I think some people don’t improve their visuals or presentations because of the amount of time it takes. Do you have tips and tricks to increase efficiency and speed?

      • Hey Stuart – My first suggestion would be to not visualize everything. Since visuals are so powerful at attracting attention, we should reserve their use for our most important data. Secondly, I’d say the true waste of time comes in delivering presentations or reports that aren’t read or used because they aren’t visually engaging. That doesn’t make the development of good reporting any faster, but it does make it worthwhile.

  2. nanwehipeihana

     /  May 15, 2012

    Hi Stephanie
    I really like the changes. It is immediately clear to see which beers have a longer duration of availability, and related to the specific months means I know that ‘x’ month is the last month to get my favourite beer. Also whilst I love Orange, (ask anyone who knows me) I think whilte providing a hit of colour, the layout and the mix of colour made the chart very busy. Have you sent your ideas, to the Company?

  3. getrealevaluation

     /  May 29, 2012

    Stephanie, I like this a lot – and oh yes, a very important topic, since Bell’s beers were one of the highlights of living in Kalamazoo! 🙂

    I am assuming the color schemes to represent each beer are similar to their actual labels on the bottles? For locals, that will help them locate their favorites.

    And yes, dying to hear what Bell’s Brewery said! They should consider themselves extremely fortunate to have a data visualization guru as such an engaged customer!

    Jane Davidson
    (Michigan resident 2001-2004
    now back home in New Zealand)


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