Sunday, 28 August 2011

When should I use a chart?

There is no easy answer for this question. But, first and foremost I think charts should show something not easily recognisable just from looking at raw data. (Not just exist because throwing in a chart makes things look pretty)

Examples include trends over time, largest vs. smallest, frequency and comparisons of performance.

All of the above hint at a significant range of data. I'm think the smaller the range, the simpler the chart. And vice versa.

Your thoughts?


  1. Data is to charts what notes are for music: put them too far apart and the harmony goes missing.

  2. Hi Frank,

    That's a very good way of putting it!

  3. Please read "Show me the numbers", by Stephen Few. Your question has been thoroughly answered in that book.
    To make it short, use a graph when the message is in the shape of the data.

  4. Thanks.

    By coincidence, I was reading through "Save Save the Pies for Dessert" this morning and was happy to see some similar points of view.

    I guess we all ask the same questions, some sooner than later :-)