Boring Graphs? Liven Them Up with These Tips

by
Kristian Olson

Don’t let boring graphs sabotage your presentation. You don’t want to be that presenter with graphs that look either too complicated or unsophisticated. There are several ways to get you graphs from crap to captivating. Let’s look at some better ways to create and use graphs.

Graphs are one output for data visualization. You are taking quantitative, defined data and telling its story in a graph. While it’s objective data, that doesn’t mean it has to lackluster. It also doesn’t need to be overly distracting. Here are some quick tips on creating graphs that get your message across clearly and vividly.

Remove Distractions for Better Readability

There are a lot of unnecessary elements in a basic graph. For a cleaner look, remove what is distracting so you get down to what’s really important. With a focus on the graphs and numbers, the data’s story is much clearer. Consider removing:

  • Backgrounds
  • Duplicate labels
  • Borders
  • Y-axis labels (label the bars directly)

Color Rules

Keep your color palette small. Too many colors have the page looking like a cartoon. It’s also true that colors convey emotions, so consider that when assigning color. The dominant color could align with the element with the highest percentage. Color should make important data or information pop.

You probably don’t want to play outside of three colors. If you want to branch out from more than a few colors, think about using gradients instead.

Ban the Bar: Alternatives to Bar Charts

A bar chart is like the vanilla of graphs. It works, but it’s plain and everybody has it. There are lots of more exciting ways to display data comparisons on one factor. It’s been the easiest way to demonstrate which entity had the most.

It’s time to ban the bar chart. Try these instead:

  • Radial column charts: more graphically interesting
  • Donut charts: use more than one on a page if needed
  • Icons: display an icon that relates to the comparison like cars, houses, or trees
  • Pictograms: they replace the bar chart’s long rectangles with images
  • Replace bars with objects that relate to the data: you could use one large one or stack smaller images

Place Your Chart on An Image

With this approach, it has to be simple, otherwise it will be distracting. Find a background image that ties in with the data and is also clean and has a rectangular shape. For example, you could use the back of a truck with charts of stacked tires when comparing which type of tires have the longest life.

Charts like these are anything but boring. With these creative ideas, you’ll have lots of cool ways to display your data. Get more tips and tricks on everything presentations from our blog.

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