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GE Capital surveyed the CFOs of more than 530 U.S. middle-market companies across 7 distinct industries to know their views of the U.S. economy. The CFOs surveyed worked at middle-market companies with revenue between $50 million and $1 billion (average $144 million). The sophisticated visualization dashboard titled "CFO Outlook Survey" [geblogs.com], designed by information architect hero Lisa Strausfield of Pentagram, provides a powerful interactive summary overview of all the results.

The questions are organized in various categories including topics like 'Outlook' or 'Hiring and Spending'. The visualization plots the corresponding CFO responses on a scale of 'Optimistic' versus 'Pessimistic'. Questions like "Will your company's revenues decrease, stay the same, or increase in 2010?" and "Will you be hiring throughout the remainder of 2010?" rate responses on the scale between Increases versus Decreases, Strong versus Weak, and so on. The 7 major industries covered in the survey, such as Food, Beverage and Agriculture, Healthcare, Manufacturing, Metals and Mining, Retail, Technology and Business Services, and Transportation, are each represented by a different color. An industry average across sectors is presented in gray. Some questions go into greater depth, and include separate pop-up bar charts that show specific responses by industry.

Should you look at the beautiful graphics or the results? The choice is up to you.

More information at the Pentagram Blog.