Navigating the landscape of powerful charts

Once we’ve decided to create a data visual or infographic, there are a lot of questions we should ask ourselves to determine the most suitable format. These considerations could include size, readability, possible interactive functionality, and the level of detail we need.

Consider your audience

Our audience is crucial in this: in the end, it’s all about them. Even when we have the most important message in the world, if our audience doesn’t understand it or they’re not interested, it’s all for nothing.

So, take a moment to consider what your audience is trying to achieve. Which decision are they trying to make? What data or information do they need in order to make this decision? And how much time do they have to do so?

The landscape of powerful charts

Depending on our answers to these questions, the charts we create can vary wildly. If time is of the essence, we should build charts which can be interpreted in the blink of an eye. These could be static charts for reports, animated online charts, or interactive charts in mobile applications.

On the other end of the spectrum we have a bit more time for visual storytelling. This includes infographics for print or social media, or maybe breathtaking interactive visual essays. We can take our audience by the hand and guide them, step by step, through a visual story.

In between these two extremes we can create reports or dashboards that can guide our audience through a collection of clearly presented key insights.

the landscape of powerful charts

Don’t start your computer (yet)

Once we have figured out our place in this landscape of powerful charts, the production of our visual can start. However, I urge you not to open your computer at this point of the workflow. It’s a common mistake: we want to start creating as quickly as possible, so we open our favourite tool right away. But then it hits us – the blank screen is staring us in the face, and we start doubting. Where should we put the first line? What was it again we were trying to achieve?

We’re not there yet. It’s time to first define a clear message.

If you want to know more about visualizing data in the right way, you can check out the other videos in this series. Or I invite you to read my book, Powerful Charts, that will give you actionable insights and practical guidelines to create data visuals that truly engage and inspire your audience.

Read more:

thumbnail for video 10 - can you use excel to create a powerful chart

Can you use Excel to create a powerful chart?

Spreadsheet tools such as Microsoft Excel or Numbers might not be the first thing on your mind when considering data visualization tools, but they can be pretty solid choices to build data visuals. Don’t let anyone convince you that using Excel to create data visuals is unprofessional.

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thumbnail for video 09 - choosing the right font for your data visual

Choosing the right font for your data visual

Fonts evoke emotions: there are very sophisticated fonts, playful fonts, attention-grabbing fonts, and elegant handwritten fonts. Using the wrong type of font can have a lot of impact. In data visualization the implications of typography are mainly focused on readability. Labels and annotations can easily become so small they get hard to read. Above all else, we should choose a font which is readable at small sizes.

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Three roles of colour in a data visual

Colour is one of the most crucial tools we have to turn a normal chart into a powerful chart with a clear message, a chart which tells a story rather than simply presenting the information.

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7 different goals for your chart

A crucial step in building a powerful chart is choosing the right type of chart. A lot of charts don’t work because they simply use the wrong type of chart. To avoid this trap, we must ask ourselves a basic question: what’s the ultimate goal of our data visual? What do we want to show with our data?

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Making a data visual noise-free

Removing noise from a data visual is not only about taking things away such as gridlines, axes or legends. That’s just one part of it, which we could call removing physical noise. Improving the signal-to-noise ratio is often also about adding little things that help our audience better understand the visual. We are helping them by removing mental noise, or mental barriers.

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Three tips to create powerful charts in Excel

Creating charts in Excel can be a very powerful tool for making sense of complex data sets, and for visualizing them. But the default options are not always the most pretty or effective ones. Here are our top three tips to create better Excel charts.

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