Making good charts and graphs is not rocket science. Actually it’s quite easy, if you remember some basic stuff:
- Charts and graphs make statistics visible. They show trends —what happened in the past and what might happen in the future.
- The best charts are simple. When they are simple, they attract attention and deliver information quickly and clearly. They explain numbers. They help readers to understand data.
- There are only four basic types of chart: fever, bar, pie and table. One of these types will be the appropriate graphic form for almost any numbers you want to display.
- Fever charts are best used to track the progress (say the price, or the quantity) of an item over a period of time.
- Bar charts show the relationships between a number of items at one time.
- Pie charts divide an item into its component parts, or percentages.
- Tables show the actual numbers, arranged into an orderly form that clarifies their relationships.
What not to do
There has always been a tendency to overdo charts, showing off, dazzling the reader or viewer with the latest devices and effects available. Computer software offers an array of three dimensional effects,
backgrounds, typestyles and icons that often clutter the result and make charts hard to decipher. So:
- Don’t use the third dimension. Why do you want your chart to jump off the page or screen? I’d rather it stayed there and let me read it!
- Don’t use a busy background to indicate what the subject of the chart is. A photo of nuts and bolts to show the reader that the chart is about industry? NO! Plain backgrounds allow the information to be seen, and read.
- Don’t use lots of colors to dress up a chart in an effort to make it look bright. What is this, the tiedyed sixties? Too many colors distract the eye, and confuse the meaning.
- Don’t use type that’s too small, or too big for the final size of the chart you are preparing. And ornate, decorative fonts have no place in charts.
P.S. You can use this recommendation for creating charts in chartgizmo.com