Makeover Monday week 3, 2018: US Household Income Distribution

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The first two weeks of Makeover Monday for this year were almost overwhelming because we’ve had another surge in people joining the project. This is superb and we’re excited for it to grow but it also means we need to be smart about allocating our time even more efficiently to ensure things run smoothly along the way.

For week 3 we’re looking at household income data for the US and you know what amuses me? Last year Andy got fed up with the New Zealand and Australian data I threw at him at the beginning of the year. If I look closely at week 1 and 3, what do I see? US data. Just saying.

So let’s check out the original viz which comes from Reddit and is featured on

Visualizing Household Income Distribution in the U.S. by State


What works well:

  • simple and clear title
  • using distinct colours which also carry meaning (‘alarming’ colours for lower income groups)
  • sorting States according to the percentage of high income earners
  • clearly labelling the colours above the chart in a logical order
  • income group boundaries are easy to relate to
  • data source is stated


What could be improved:

  • the colours and labels across 50 rows make this a very busy chart
  • red and green in combination make this a difficult viz for people with colour blindness
  • patterns are hard to see in these stacked bars because each subsequent colour’s length is also impacted by the preceding one
  • no geographical trends are visible this way
  • while the sorting is based on the data and makes sense, it’s not user-friendly as many people looking at the chart will be interested in the position of their home state and will have to search through the list. Alphabetical sorting or a way of highlighting a specific state could be a solution


What I did:

  • I struggled a lot. I had some clear ideas but couldn’t execute them so I created something I didn’t like and let it rest for a day while I went to visit my parents
  • Thankfully I was able to use my ‘call a friend’ joker and had Andy’s assistance to the calculations right that I needed to show the focus of my story
  • I decided to look at the income bracket with the highest percentage of households in it, for each state across the years. I figured it would show some interesting progress over the 8 years of data
  • Taking all the formatting, swearing and tantrums into account I had along the way, this viz probably took around 4 hours before I was happy with it, but I got there in the end.
  • It’s much more fun in the interactive version, so please check it out by clicking on the image below…


US Household Income Distribution.png


  1. Hello, I am interested in the way you shaped that map with “Row” and “Column”. Did you do that by tryin over and over to fit dots perfectly or is there any easy way?


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