The Best Statistical Graph Ever Drawn?

Yale Professor and guru of graphics Edward Tufte sells print outs of this image on his website.  His description:

“Probably the best statistical graphic ever drawn, this map by Charles Joseph Minard portrays the losses suffered by Napoleon’s army in the Russian campaign of 1812. Beginning at the Polish-Russian border, the thick band shows the size of the army at each position. The path of Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow in the bitterly cold winter is depicted by the dark lower band, which is tied to temperature and time scales. Exquisitely printed in two colors on fine archival paper, 22” by 15”.”

Not everyone agrees with this, however.

Although the image does display a bunch of dimensions in one image, some people think it’s better to keep images simple. In fact, there seems to be a number of folks

Gene Zelazny and his team of McKinsey folks came up with some alternatives.

Seth Godin is an entertaining management thinker, author of short clever books, who argues for a 2 second rule.   Here’s Seth’s version:

John Boykin is a graphic/web designer who came up with this alternative image

John Boykin's redesign of Minard's Napoleon graphic


What do you think?



  1. These are some interesting designs. I feel that the most useful and easy to read is the last one. At the same time, the fist 2 would be placed in some kind of “popular literature”. But I see where it goes, Jason. Will we have to come up with the design of our own?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome to come up with a design of your own if you’d like, but it’s not an assignment.


  2. I agree with Olena. The last one has the best combination of simplicity and usefulness. You always talk about using models to make an argument and I think the last model is the only one that is easy to understand and has enough quality information.


  3. bsauer2015 · · Reply

    I followed the website of the Yale professor trying to understand all the details within the graph and it took me some time in order to understand all his tedious details. Perhaps it is the most precise graph but not necessarily the best. The last one effectively uses data to raise an argument.


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