Charts and graphs are a great way to communicate data visually. They can help us quickly understand trends, patterns, relationships, and other insights within a dataset that would be difficult or impossible to glean from raw numbers alone.
Creating effective visualizations with charts and graphs is not always easy – it takes skill and practice to make sure your message is conveyed in the most powerful way possible. On the page below you will find topics and resources about using charts & graphs effectively:
Let’s start out by exploring some popular kinds of charts and graphs and when you might use them.
Charts and graphs are often found in reports and presentations to help explain trends, patterns, and relationships in data sets. Because raw data isn’t always easy to digest and understand, visual representations can make it easier for people to get a better understanding of the information.
Now let’s take a look at the different types of charts & graphs available to you. There are many kinds and they each have their own unique strengths and weaknesses.
Bar graphs, or bar charts if you will, are one of the most common types of charts used to display data. Bar graphs are typically vertical rectangles that are scaled for comparison according to data values.
Bar graphs typically have an x and y axis that can be used to show how something changes over time. For example, you could use a bar graph to compare the number of sales in each month or year. A trend line will sometimes accompany a bar graph to give more insight into the data.
Line graphs are very similar to bar graphs in that they also use an x and y axis, however, instead of bars, line graphs use a series of connected points to display information. This makes it easier to see changes over time as the points connect together.
Pie charts are great for showing the parts of a whole. They typically have a central circle (or “pie”) that is divided into slices to represent percentages or proportions of data values. You might have also heard of these as ‘donut’ charts
Now that you know what kind of charts & graphs are available, it’s time to learn best practices for design. It’s important to make sure your visualizations are clear, concise, and easy to understand. Keep in mind that if you are using a data software such as Excel, Google Sheets or another related numbers-oriented platform, your visualizations may have different formatting options available compared to other platforms such as PowerPoint or even Adobe Illustrator. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when designing:
Once you have designed a chart or graph presenting your data, it’s time to embed it into your presentation. Many presentation software platforms such as PowerPoint, Keynote, Google Slides and others have the ability to easily insert charts & graphs from external sources.
You can also use images of the chart or graph that you have created in a data program like Excel. Simply save the image file, then upload it to the presentation software. This can be a great way to present your data without having to copy & paste or reconstruct it in the presentation.
Oftentimes, these charts or graphs are combined with other media elements (audio, animation, etc.) to create multimedia presentations.
Charts and graphs, no matter what kind, will share some common elements. These include:
There are plenty of ways to make charts and graphs. The key here is how much emphasis are you going to place on the design vs. the data? In other words, if you need a quick solution and don’t have time for design, then an online graphing tools like Google Charts, Canva or even Excel’s capabilities might be the way to go. However, if you want a more tailored approach and want to take into account design techniques such as color-theory, font ratios and more, a program like Adobe Illustrator or other graphic design suite might be the best route.
Of course there’s a tradeoff, there is a learning curve when using something like the Adobe Creative Suite and if you need something fast this won’t be the best option. The outcome of a graph or chart crafted in Adobe Illustrator will be much more impactful than one produced in Excel or Google Charts so it’s important to keep your audience in mind.
Whichever route you decide to take, having a basic understanding of design principles can help drive your decision. Knowing how to properly use color, typography, layout and other design fundamentals is the key to producing visually appealing charts and graphs that will capture your audience’s attention.
Oftentimes, people want to show change over time or have interactive elements in their graphs and charts. Animated charts and graphs can be a great way to do this. These animated visuals can help viewers better understand trends, patterns, correlations and relationships that may not stand out when looking at a static graph or chart.
These are commonly integrated into presentations, Powerpoint slides, websites or digital marketing campaigns. There are a variety of tools available for creating animated charts and graphs, including programs like Adobe After Effects. The important thing to remember is that no matter what tool you use, the data should be accurate and easy to understand. An animation can quickly become overwhelming if it’s not designed properly.
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