Meats and seafood: 15 percent. Eggs and dairy: 10 percent. Snacks: 5 percent.
No, these are not the FDA’s new dietary guidelines; they’re a new way to look at the way we’re shopping at the grocery store, courtesy of a data visualization expert at Netflix.
By day, Susie Lu is just that; by night, she’s a comics illustrator (@susie_draws on Instagram) and a painter. And she also spends her downtime visualizing data for fun, aka thinking of ways to represent statistical information in a clear and visually compelling way.
Unless you’re an extreme couponer in your heart of hearts, there’s a good chance that you’ve spent fairly little time reading your receipts, not least because they’re pretty boring to read. That means that, even though each receipt provides an itemized list of what you’re eating on a weekly or monthly basis, you’re probably not getting a clear picture of your diet and eating habits, or your ability to budget, based on your receipts. But now, thanks to Lu, you could:
Early prototypes of reviziting the receipt, one piece of a larger question I want explore: how can viz be integrated into everyday experiences? pic.twitter.com/hswtVFp0oc
“I was compelled to think of ways that data visualization could be used to redesign everyday experiences,” Lu told Fast Company. “The receipt was the idea I was most excited to play with first.”
Lu’s early designs feature a few key data visualization points that you’d never think to look for otherwise: a bubble chart that reflects how much of your bill was spent on each category, plus percentages, followed by an itemized list that further breaks down your spending. A bar chart under each item shows, for example, what portion of your “meat and seafood” purchases was taken up by a steak versus a chicken, et cetera.
However, at least when it comes to paper receipts, there are still a few physical limitations that made Lu’s idea difficult to execute, one of them being that receipt paper is not meant for high-resolution printing. Secondly, the thermal printers currently available, and used by businesses far and wide, have rather limited artistic ability of their own—they can’t draw horizontal lines, as Lu discovered.
For now, that means Lu’s designs will probably not be coming out of the receipt machine at your neighborhood grocery anytime soon. But perhaps her idea will set the standard for digital receipts. And if any giant grocery chains are on the lookout for a way to drive up a loyal fanbase, we invite you to invest some resources in Lu’s work.
Would you find this new grocery-store receipt useful? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.