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## Misleading Graphics, Not So Honest Tea Edition

Are you smarter than Honest Tea, the upstart purveyor of natural (and yummy) teas? To see, please compare the sizes of the yellow and black coffee cups:

How big do you think the yellow cup is relative to the black one?

If you answered “about 1/4″, congratulations! You are correct. The yellow cup is roughly half as high and half as wide as the black one. The area of the yellow cup is thus about 1/4 that of the black cup.*

If you answered “about 1/8″, congratulations as well! You are also correct, as long as you think the images represent three-dimensonal objects. We can’t actually see how deep the coffee cups are. But if they are like the ones in real life, the yellow one is half as high, half as wide, and half as deep as the black one. The volume of the yellow cup is thus 1/8 that of the black cup. I prefer 1/4, since the image doesn’t attempt to capture the third dimension, but I’m willing to give credit for 1/8.

If you answered “about 1/2″, finally, congratulations again! That’s not remotely correct, but you may have a promising future in marketing.

Honest Tea uses these cups to illustrate how much caffeine is in its natural (and yummy) tea products. Here, for example, is a snippet of the online nutrition information for its Lemon Black tea:

Honest Tea thus uses a one-quarter (or one-eighth) sized coffee cup to (misleadingly) illustrate that the product has one-half as much caffeine as a cup of coffee.

Honest Tea makes the same mistake on its Honey Green Tea product, as well. Honey Green Tea has about 1/4 the caffeine of a cup of coffee, but the label image makes it look like 1/16:

In fact, the coffee cup image for Honey Green Tea really ought to look like the one that’s incorrectly used for Lemon Black.

* The yellow cup is actually a bit less than 1/4 the size of the black one. Perhaps Honest Tea is trying to be precise, and the actual amount of caffeine is less than one-half.

### 5 Responses

1. This was fun. I guessed 1/4.

2. been following your blog for 3 days now and i must say i am beginning to like your post. and now how do i sign up for your blog?

3. great publish, i sure| will likely be visiting some other time

4. Great Work

5. [...] 1. This chart combines two common charting techniques that overstate comparisons. First, the vertical axis goes down to only 30% or so, not zero. As a result, the height of the 2010 data point appears to be only one-quarter that of the 1970 data point. Second, the chart uses a three-dimensional image to depict a single-dimensional variable. Leaving aside the change in images (cup vs. bottle), that overstates the difference by a factor of 8. Put it all together, and the cup looks to be about 1/32 the size of the bottle, suggesting that teen drinking is about 3% of its 1980 level. In fact, it’s about 56% of that level. (For a similar discussion, see my earlier piece on Honest Tea’s caffeine measurements. [...]