09 February 2023

How fast do fingernails grow? A graphic makeover

Years ago on my general blog, NeuroDojo, I wrote a post about how fast my fingernails grew. As part of that post, I made this graph: 

Bar chart showing fingernail growth in nanometers per second.

I created this graph in OriginLab, and it is clear enough. It’s very much the sort of thing you expect to create for a technical journal article.

I recently looked at that post again, and got an idea for a more graphic way of showing the data. 

Graphic of hand showing growth in nanometers per second as a callout on each finger.

This does not have the same amount of detail as the bar graph, but is more more readily understood at a glance. It makes it more obvious what the numbers are showing: something related to each finger of a hand.

If I was more ambitious, I might have made the graphic even more personal by taking photographs of my own hand.

This approach (if not this particular quick and dirty graph) would be much better for a conference poster than the more traditional bar graph. 

Remember, graphs are anonymous. Photos and illustrations and icons have personalities.

Update, 12 February 2023: I should have mentioned I did this graph makeover and submitted as part of a Storytelling with Data challenge for January called “The quantified self.”

This then got featured on the Storytelling with Data podcast, episode #61: “AI, quantified self, and fingernails.” So yeah, those are my fingernails they’re talking about!

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