Do not fuck with graphic designers

(A PDF of this image is available here.)


Dear Rep. Boehner,


Recently, you released a chart purportedly describing the organization of the House Democrats' health plan. I think Democrats, Republicans, and independents agree that the problem is very complicated, no matter how you visualize it.


By releasing your chart, instead of meaningfully educating the public, you willfully obfuscated an already complicated proposal. There is no simple proposal to solve this problem. You instead chose to shout "12! 16! 37! 9! 24!" while we were trying to count something.


So, to try and do my duty both to the country and to information design (a profession and skill you have loudly shat upon), I have taken it upon myself to untangle your delightful chart. A few notes:


- I have removed the label referring to "federal website guidelines" as those are not a specific requirement of the Health and Human Services department. They are part of the U.S. Code. I should know: I have to follow them.


- I have relabeled the "Veterans Administration" to the "Department of Veterans' Affairs." The name change took effect in 1989.


- In the one change I made specifically for clarity, I omitted the line connecting the IRS and Health and Human Services department labeled "Individual Tax Return Information."


In the future, please remember that you have a duty to inform the public, and not willfully confuse your constituents.




Robert Palmer


California 53rd District



Version History:

July 21: Original version.

July 22: Added missing link from Surgeon General to Clinical Preventive Services Task Force, noticed by @Fan on (Thanks!)

  • Robert Palmer 6y

    @eenlikebean: I really appreciate your thoughtful comments. I actually started with a version that had all the "department" circles the same size, but with all the lines, I reached a point visually where I said "this is no better": If it's one big ball, or lots of small balls connected to a central ball, you still have one big giant point of focus in the middle of the chart. I wish I'd kept that version, because I could show you that it actually looks way more sinister in a spidery Death Star kind of way than a sunflower. It seemed to me that eliminating the lines simplifies the connections, at the expense of making HHS seem huge.

    But, to that point: HHS _will_ be huge with this plan. You're right in terms of scale to Defense (for example), and this chart does a great job of illustrating the relationship among the departments based on their budget. I agree, it would be fascinating to combine the two charts (and size each circle to scale by budget), but since the plan hasn't been approved or budgeted (or really _anything_), that chart can't be made yet. And I'll admit -- reading through thousands of pages of documents doesn't exactly thrill me or inspire me to get working. ;)

    To point 2, I guess I figured that having it on Flickr would serve that purpose, and presenting the image in the context of this page would help to that end. I guess I just wanted to be as pure as I could about it, and translate the image with as few alterations as possible, including to the title or subtitle, or what-have-you.

    Thanks again for your thoughtful comments. And continued thanks to all those who have seen and commented here. Let's hope health care reform keeps going. At this point, even disallowing denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions would be a win.

  • ken fager 6y

    Good show sir. Today's internet win is yours.
  • Ian Taylor 6y

    Thank you so much. I've hated that shitty propaganda since the first day I saw it. As someone else said, I am proud to consider myself a graphic designer.
  • josephrlee 6y

    This is brilliant, love the accompanying letter as well. Made me smile.
  • begsini 6y

    Insofar as the colors mean something, it would be nice if there were a key so that this level of meaning could be communicated.

    This is just one item that keeps your chart - while obviously more visually pleasing than Boehner's idiotic one - from being a true, useful information graphic.
  • Robert Palmer 6y

    @begsini: For what it's worth, I wrote one in text here. Since the originial diagram didn't include a key, and I wanted to stay as true to the original as possible, I didn't include a key either. It's something I probably should have done, I agree.
  • dawson85 6y

    This is a rare instance where the original is still better in conveying the absurdity of having congress craft our health care system. While this version is all easter bunny and bubbly it's harder to read do to poor font to background contrast, large white spaces, and hairline links. One thing I agree is the size comparison between "Health and Human Services
    Department" and the "Consumer". This makes it obviouse who the "big" winner is.

    I don't care how much "Mr Bubble" you put on this turd of a plan, it still stinks!
  • Robert Palmer 6y

    @dawson85: RE Font to background contrast: The font is black, the background is white. Can't really get much more contrasty than that.
  • the_Craigen 6y

    Never mind that the typeface also doesn't have extreme thick-to-thin stroke contrast...

    And at the original size, the linking lines aren't too light at all.

    The light colours though, almost Easterish in that colours associated with Easter tend to be lighter, almost pastels. So...a very minor point conceded in a round-about way to Mr. Dawson85, sort of, but not really.

  • krstnb 6y

    Someone made a GIANT version of the original (behind the "Obama bring back Arrested Development" sign)

    DSC04581 by granitepics
  • Robert Palmer 6y

    @krstnb Now THAT is a health care reform I can get behind. I will feel much better once Arrested Development is back on the air. :)
  • Bruce Couch 6y

  • epuchalski 6y

    So, is it just angry Democrats who can't discuss political issues without using filthy language? If this is the only resource I have that I can share with my kids then I guess I'm stuck with the Republican version.
  • Ron Willis 6y

    Don't injure your arm patting yourself on your back!
    Your graphic design expertise doesn't make you qualified to create a "simplified" description of a totally spaghetti-like PROCESS such as theDemocrat's proposed health care system. Your diagram is proof of that.

    I vote for Boehner's diagram as the better - and more accurate - of the two to portray the unintelligible complexity of a typical government-run program. Boehner also didn't boast arrogance as you did nor has he "shat upon" your mis-representation of a PROCESS (I'm doing that for him here).

    You need a few more years before you learn REAL graphic representation of complex processes. How's your arm feel?
  • Robert Palmer 6y

    @epuchalski: I use filthy language because I'm angry. If language offends you, you should consider not using it.

    @HB Jock: The point was not to simplify the process. I didn't simplify the process, nor did I ever claim to. I simplified another chart. That's all I did. I'm representing the same process Boehner did. Feel free to heckle the drawing, that's fine. Point out flaws. Make it better: that's what a CC license is for. But heckling me for drawing it (on my Flickr page, no less) just because you don't agree with what it represents? Please. I don't walk into your office and slap the dick out of your mouth while you work.
  • Paul G 6y

    Hi, I'm an admin for a group called what the fuck makes you so special?, and we'd love to have this added to the group!

    the work is wonderful.
    your recent replies offered to 'criticism' are effective and wholly deserved.

    it seems to me the american 'healthcare system' is nominally oxymoronic. it is run for profit, not for the benefit of the patient.

    'health' [sic] insurance companies employing doctors to wittingly 'refuse' care!
    first tenet of the hippocratic anybody.

    text based - set
  • Paul G 6y

    Hi, I'm an admin for a group called A Quiet Revolt, and we'd love to have this added to the group!
  • oldworldmafia 6y

    I think you left out a big fat arrow indicating the transfer of money from the consumers' pockets to the federal government. You also forgot a bunch of little arrows showing that cash farmed out among various special interests, including Big Pharma and Big Insurance.
  • TrudyHealthAnalyst 5y

    Robert Palmer, Now that the health bill has passed--your diagram (which you did with some cool visualization tool) is too high level and simplistic. I am a health analyst and based on the hundred or so programs that are now being implemented in the Agencies to carry out the bill, it looks alot more like the diagram you criticized. If you want to prove me wrong, use your cool tool and put all the text of all the Federal notices that are being generated by ARRA and ACA through it and generate a new version.
  • REAXion2 4y

    I love how people are acting like "health care" in this country isn't already hideously complicated. At the Doctors office, they have at least one person, usually more, who's sole job is making sure that they get the insurance companies to pay for their patient's treatment. And what? Once you are diagnosed with having a certain disease, you no longer need health care? Why? I am thinking it's a Scrooge thing going on there. Once you know you are going to die, you should just go ahead and be done with it, and decrease the surplus population.
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Taken on July 22, 2009
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