Mobile Data-visualization has a Y Axis Problem

There is a ‘trendy’ design pattern, many years in use, of not displaying the Y axis on a chart in some financial mobile apps.

I first noticed this in the app Robinhood. But I’ve also seen it in apps such as SoFi. Sadly, despite advocating for a change, these apps are still persisting this flawed data visualization design.

Why is this bad?

Overall, due to the mobile format, it often makes sense to show something like a line or candlestick chart that’s closer to a square or even portrait proportion.

Robinhood and Sofi app charts

When a chart in this format presents either a narrow rang of time or a fairly stable historical trend, even minor up and down movements of only a few dollars can look like wild swings at a glance. This is why this pattern is flawed. If a user can’t quickly understand the high and low price range that is traditionally communicated by the data on the Y axis, the glance could trigger a perception of movement that’s proportionally incorrect.

Presenting data in this way will require the audience to think harder than they should have to, for no apparent functional reason. Products that use this kind of design appear to be prioritizing spontaneous conversion of their Buy/Sell buttons over helping their customers make more informed decisions.

So what’s a better way?

The first option is to simply include the y axis. It is possible to do this in a small space. A few examples include Apple’s iOS stocks app and TD Ameritrade. What’s notable is that both take the approach of right-aligning the display of the text labels to make it more readable and functional in a mobile setting.

The Coinbase app offers and example of the second way to approach this. You can omit the Y-axis, if you include the lowest and highest price overlaid on the chart within the relative time period. This is another useful way to give the viewer a quick way to understand the relative volatility of movement while maximizing the horizontal space that a Y-axis would otherwise inhabit.

Apple Stocks, TD Ameritrade and Coinbase app examples

In Summary

You can’t completely do away with the relevant data that a Y axis provides on charts just because the screen is small. Alternatively, if your motivation is to make a chart look cooler or simpler then you are fueling the “dribbblification” tropes about superficial designers who don’t understand business, usability and customer needs. Lastly, it would be even worse if you are doing this on purpose to somehow distort or add friction to an end user’s comprehension of the data – as that seems to fall into the category of dark patterns.

New Presentation Tools Breaking Boundaries

Updated 10/23/2019 to include additional services. See this twitter thread for details.

What is a “Presentation” in the post-PowerPoint era?

There’s a subtle shift in the Presentation tools landscape that’s been emerging lately. Products like Google Slides, Zoho Show, and Apple Keynote came on the scene to liberate us from the monopolistic shackles of the ubiquitous Microsoft “.PPT”. Now, these tools have also matured into front-runners vulnerable to disruption.

There appears to be a new wave of tools that are moving beyond competing with other “Slide Deck” software, and are instead looking to shift our perspectives on how we craft and present our stories.

The approach varies among these contenders. However, there appear to be some notable themes among them.

  • Collaboration – making it even more seamless to simultaneously work together on content
  • Assistance – clever ways that a tool can help you craft the right content or visuals (yes, we’re talking the #Ai buzzword here)
  • Design Magic – upping the game in offering out of the box modern charts, graphs and infographics ‘templates’ to help non-designers quickly create great data visualizations
  • In Your Browser – many are SaaS web apps delivered via your web browser, so no clunky downloads or files to save

Here’s a roundup of compelling products to try out or keep an eye on. “Add content and watch your slides adapt. No more tweaking text boxes or lining up arrows at 2am. Our Ai applies the rules of great design in real time, so it’s finally easy to tell your story”


Canva “Design a presentation that blows your audience away with our stunning collection of high-quality presentation templates. Free to personalize and completely online so you can easily edit and collaborate with your colleagues.”


Deckset “Turn your Markdown notes into beautiful presentations. Write down your thoughts in your favourite text editor, and Deckset will turn them into beautiful presentations.”


Ludus “We believe that static presentations are a thing of the past. Ludus is a powerful web application that lets you integrate all the power of the Internet into your slides. This means you can embed 3D models, videos, VR experiments, Dropbox files, designs from Figma, prototypes from Framer, InVision or Marvel. It’s as easy as copy and paste.”


Piktochart “Easy-to-Use presentation maker. No complex design software. No heavy designer fees. Just a simple, intuitive tool that helps you and your team tell stories with the visual impact they deserve.” “All hands on deck. Pitch helps teams build better presentations: collaboratively, effectively, and beautifully.”


PRESENTA “enables the content-first principle. Instead of starting positioning elements on the canvas, it’s better writing great contents first. This seems obvious but the current status-quo of the presentation tools forces people the other way around.”


Slidebean “AI-powered presentation design. Design professional presentations in seconds using the world’s first slide design platform powered by Artificial Intelligence.”


Visme “The only design tool you’ll need to present stories and translate boring data into stunning presentations for infographics right in your browser.”

P.S. Here’s a bonus list via Larry Kim that’s just about “Infographics” tools

Buoymoji Colorways is Second in Series of iMessage Stickers

Buoymoji Colorways stickers iPhone ExampleBuoymoji Colorways is our 2nd release of Stickers for Apple iMessage on iOS.

It’s available now on the Apple App Store.

This latest in the series is an expanded set that features emoji in three different colors (green, white, pink) plus a few extras.

The mariners phrase goes “Red, Right, Returning” and that’s why we arranged this latest set of stickers the way we did.

Is it Buoymoji or Buoymojis? Either way, we hope you’ll have fun with this reimagining of classic emojis as traditional lobster buoys.

Add these bobbing characters to your messaging homeport today. Designed near the ocean in a seacoast suburb of Boston, MA.

A collaboration between James Young and Tim Walling

Collaboration with The Dogmatics and Rum Bar Records

Here’s a personal-perspective case study on how I had the opportunity to collaborate with the band and their label on both the recordings and design to support their latest release.

The Dogmatics have contributed to the Boston rock scene since the early ’80s. Read their backstory here. Two thousand nineteen marks a momentous new chapter for the band, their family, friends, and fans.

The Dogmatics announced this July that they had joined the local label Rum Bar Records and would be releasing their first new material in over thirty years. Jerry Lehane, Tom Long, Peter O’Halloran, and Jimmy O’Halloran (in honor of their late brother Paul) were laying down new tracks. Garage rockers in New England and around the world rejoiced in anticipation.

My family and I have been close to the band and its extended circle for many years. For over a decade, I’ve been a member of The Hired Men, a band that includes members of The Dogmatics among a gloriously amoeba-like group of other established local musicians. Our two bands have played together and even combined forces for live shows.

When they asked me to play mandolin and sing backup on a few new songs, I jumped at the honor. The band worked out of a fantastic barn studio with the expert ear and production skills of Ed Riemer. Tim Heap joins in on a track, and they were even able to collaborate remotely with their long-time keyboard player John Goetchius.

After they completed the recordings, we started throwing around ideas for the album artwork. Rum Bar Records would be releasing it on 7” vinyl, CD, and Digital.

We played with some concepts. Ultimately we agreed that our goal was to strike a balance between the nostalgia of the band’s storied history and the contemporary context of these new songs.

The Dogmatics Album Covers over time

The final layout is a compositional hybrid of their previously released albums. We carried forward the classic logo created by Barry Hall, and stacked it above a white framed b&w photo. The album’s title is hand-lettered in sharpie (a nod toward the many setlists the band hastily penned over the years before hitting the stage).

BTW The cover photo is from series I took a while back when Peter pulled his legendary Fender Telly apart to try and find the date of manufacture.

Pete with telly neck 12-03-1972

The palette is inspired by the logo coloring on their album “Thayer Street”. The yellow background was an intentional strategy to grab the viewer’s attention. A primary consideration was the desire for a cover that would stand out among the many thumbnails vying for attention in the digital distribution landscape.

In a stroke of marketing genius, Rum Bar’s founder Lou Mansdorf partnered with Newbury Comics to release a limited edition of the EP in Yellow vinyl!

THE DOGMATICS She's The One Exclusive 7" in Yellow Vinyl

This partnership was a perfect synergy between a band and institution that have both been helping to make the Boston music scene “wicked good” for many years. The rollout included an in-store performance at the Norwood location.

The Dogmatics Live Performance at Newbury Comics Norwood October 2019

The album is out now in the digital marketplace and the physical goods officially release on October 10th. The reception has been excellent so far.

“She’s The One is no run of the mill comeback. This thing’s a stone cold triumph!” – Faster and Louder

“It’s always renewing to hear a set like this at Newbury Comics. The store had the gorgeous yellow vinyl copy that sold a lot of copies during the day. Score that if you can.” – Boston Groupie News

“Throughout the band tears through each song with frantic, fun abandon…

Who knows what prompted this reunion, 33 years later, but it’s clear that they’ve managed to sand away any possible rust that may have settled in over the past several decades, offering a revisiting of a band that always deserved a much wider audience beyond their native Boston. She’s The One could very well be the release to make that happen.” – NeuFutur Magazine

The songs have been charting in the top 10 across a number of indie stations and the single “She’s the one” was #1 on Radio Indie Alliance top 40.

Topping it all off, many of the events mentioned above have been captured on video and may be part of a forthcoming documentary about The Dogmatics (stay tuned). I couldn’t be more excited about all this well-deserved attention the band is getting.

Give their new EP a listen, or try to catch them playing live.