I’d like to share with you a chart that can help you decide what’s the best way to graph the data that you’re dealing with.
The picture comes from Andrew Abela, who hosts a blog called Extreme Presentation.
I think it’s a great baseline, and while I don’t agree 100% on everything (like the use of pie charts), I think this covers most every situation you’ll come up against in chart design.
Let’s start this off with some honesty. I used to love pie charts. I thought they were great, just like the way I used to think Comic Sans was the best font ever.
But then I had some #RealTalk, and I’ve been enlightened in the error of my ways, and I want to pass on what I’ve learned to show people why pie charts aren’t the best choice for visualization. For my day job, part of my work involves creating visualizations out of business data for our customers. I picked up a copy of “Information Dashboard Design” a book by Stephen Few of Perceptual Edge. If you’re at all interested in data visualization, I highly recommend his books, and on this site we attempt to use a lot of the principles in creating the visualizations we present to you.
But speaking specifically of Pie Charts, here’s why they’re a bad choice for your and your data:
It’s Hard To Do Comparisons
With a pie chart, the size of the angle determines the proportion on the data. Everything adds up to a nice cool, crisp 100%. But what if you want to know the exact numbers? Well, you’re going to need data labels attached to your data, which can take up space and be cumbersome.
Look at these pie charts. Can you tell me the exact value of each of the slices? Can you order the colors from largest to smallest in each chart?