What is the best graph to display information over a period of time?

The best infographics fuse data with text and visuals to tell a persuasive story.Unfortunately, you cant just plop some numbers into your infographic and expect your readers to gai

What is the best graph to display information over a period of time?
How to Choose the Best Types of Charts For Your Data Blog Header
How to Choose the Best Types of Charts For Your Data Blog Header

The best infographics fuse data with text and visuals to tell a persuasive story.

Unfortunately, you cant just plop some numbers into your infographic and expect your readers to gain anything from it. You have to put some thought into the presentation of the data to create clarity and boost understanding.

But I guarantee you, that little bit of extra effort you put into choosing the best chart for your data will be worth it! When used appropriately, charts can:

  • Enhance comprehension of complex concepts
  • Strengthen the persuasiveness of claims
  • Make key insights more memorable

Not a designer? No problem. Make better charts in minutes with Venngages Chart Maker.
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Click to jump ahead:

  • Adding data to your charts with CSV Import
  • The most common types of charts
  • Use the ICCOR method to choose the best chart for your infographic
  • Quick tips for infographic chart design

WATCH: How to pick the right types of charts for your data

So how do you go about choosing the bestchart templates for your infographic?

Types of Charts Infographic Template
Types of Charts Infographic Template


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Adding data to your charts with CSV Import

Once youve selected your chart, you need to upload your data. In Venngage, its simple.

In the editor, double-click on the chart to open the widget. Under the DATA tab, click the green button labeled IMPORT and select your CSV file. The chart will instantly visualize your data once its imported.

June-2020-Updates9
June-2020-Updates9

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The most common types of charts are:

  • Bar charts
  • Line charts
  • Pie charts
  • Bubble charts
  • Stacked bar charts
  • Treemaps
  • Word clouds
  • Doughnut charts
  • Pictographs
  • Area charts
  • Scatter plot charts
  • Multi-series charts

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Use the ICCOR method to choose the best chart for your infographic

At Venngage, weve developed the ICCOR method to help you choose the best charts for your infographic. There are two steps to making the ICCOR method work for you:

  1. Determine your visualization goal
  2. Choose the best chart to achieve that goal

Step 1: Determine your visualization goal

If you try to dive into visualizing your data without any clear goals, youre never going to produce anything useful.

Garbage in, garbage out, right?

Instead, start by defining a single visualization goal for your chart. That goal should line up with one of our ICCOR categories, either to:

  • Inform: convey a single important message or data point that doesnt require much context to understand
  • Compare: show similarities or differences among values or parts of a whole
  • Show Change: visualize trends over time or space
  • Organize: show groups, patterns, rank or order
  • Reveal Relationships: show correlations among variables or values
best chart
best chart


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Not sure what your goal should be? Spend some time getting to know your data. Look for patterns, groupings, trends, outliers, and key data points. The things that stand out to you are the same things that you should emphasize to your readers.

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Step 2: Choose the best types of charts to achieve that goal

With your goal in mind, its time to choose your chart!

There are a number of charts that can work for each ICCOR goal.

Lets review each one with some chart design best practices for each.

Best types of charts for informing

So you have a single data point or key message that you want to hit your readers over the head with.

The easiest way to do that in an infographic is to simply use big, bold (colorful) text.

Basic Statistical Infographic Template
Basic Statistical Infographic Template


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The nice thing about this strategy is it gets right to the pointtheres no room for misinterpretation. The drawback?

Sometimes a single number, without any context, might not seem very significant. This problem is easily remedied.

Use simple symbols or icons to add a bit more contextlike an arrow or different sized backgrounds to emphasize growth or decline:

Microlearning Team Highlights Infographic Template
Microlearning Team Highlights Infographic Template


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Or an icon chart (an icon with two fill colors, where the ratio is represented by the height of the main color) to make proportions more tangible.

best chart
best chart


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A more accurate way of representing a proportion is by directly spelling it out in a pictogram, a matrix of icons in which one icon represents a unit or group of units.

When making pictograms, try to stick with nice round numbers like 10 or 100 that are easy to grasp:

How NPS Works Infographic Template
How NPS Works Infographic Template


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Best types of charts for comparing

If you want to show similarities or differences among values or parts of a whole, youve got a lot of options.

Use a bar or column chart to compare independent values

We, as readers, are particularly good at comparing the length of bars in a bar chart (in contrast to the segments of a pie chart, for example), making bar and column charts the best charts for showing comparisons.

For the most part, bar charts and column charts can be used interchangeably. However, if you want to compare the change in some metrics over time, its better to stick with a column chart so that time is represented from left to right.

Food Corporate Annual Report Template
Food Corporate Annual Report Template


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If you happen to have long labels for each data point (like when youre charting survey results, for example), the horizontal bar chart is a better choice. It allows extra space for each label so that hard to read vertical or angled text can be avoided:

Data Storytelling Marketing Visualization Bar Chart Template
Data Storytelling Marketing Visualization Bar Chart Template


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Note the order of the bars heresince the dataset has no inherent order, sorting the bars from greatest to least adds an extra dimension of information. Also, note the ratio of bar width to bar spacing. The space between the bars should be about half of the bar width for optimal readability.

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Create your own bar chart online with Venngages free Bar Graph Maker.

While bar and column charts are the best choice in terms of data readability, infographics sometimes call for something a little more unique and engaging.

Enter: the bubble chart.

Use a bubble chart to compare independent values with clear outliers

In a bubble chart, values are represented by circle area instead of bar length. Since were not particularly good at making precise judgments of circle area, its only a good idea to use bubble charts when there are clear outliers or large gaps between each value. Id also recommend explicitly labeling each bubble with its value.

Creative Bubble Chart Template
Creative Bubble Chart Template


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Use a pie chart to compare parts of a whole (composition)

The simplest way to visualize simple part-to-whole relationships is with a pie chart. Make your pie charts easy to read by:

  • Ordering segments from greatest to least
  • Starting the first segment at 12:00 and continuing clockwise
  • Limiting the chart to a maximum of 7 segments
best chart
best chart


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While pie charts are ubiquitous and easily understood, they do have their limitations (i.e. when comparing the composition of multiple values).

Make your own pie chart for free with Venngages Pie Chart Maker.

Use a stacked bar or stacked column chart to compare the compositions of multiple values

Comparison Stacked Chart Template
Comparison Stacked Chart Template


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Even stacked bar charts are fairly limited in their uses, though. They only really work when you have very few bars and very few segments, or when differences between bars are very large.

If youve got lots of data or the differences within your data are subtle, a series of bar charts would be a better choice.

best chart - stacked chart
best chart - stacked chart

Source

Basicallybar charts are the most reliable method for visualizing comparisons.

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Best types of charts for showing change

Theres a little more flexibility when it comes to visualizing trends over time or space.

Use a line chart or an area chart to show changes that are continuous over time.

Line charts are the most effective chart for displaying time-series data. They can handle a ton of data points and multiple data series, and everyone knows how to read them. Just make sure your points are ordered such that time runs from left to right, and use consistent time intervals.

best chart
best chart


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Modern Line Chart Template
Modern Line Chart Template


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Make your own line chart for free with Venngages Line Graph Maker.

Area charts can be more aesthetically pleasing, but require some more finesse. Theyre only really appropriate to use with less than four data series, and its a good idea to introduce some transparency to make sure each area is visible.

Dark Circle Corporate Area Chart Template
Dark Circle Corporate Area Chart Template


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But time series data isnt always purely numerical!

Use a timeline infographic to visualize events over time

Nonprofit Fundraising Timeline Template
Nonprofit Fundraising Timeline Template


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Use a choropleth map to show location data.

A choropleth map is a map crossed with a heatmap. Theyre usually shaded in proportion to the value of some variable, and can be used to show location-based patterns:

Equal Area US Map Chart Template
Equal Area US Map Chart Template


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Use a map series to show changes in location data over time

Market Segmentation Map Template
Market Segmentation Map Template


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Make your own map for free with VenngagesMap Maker.

Best types of charts for organizing

Charts for organizing data or information in an infographic can take many forms, depending on whether you want to show groups, patterns, rank, or order. Ill just touch on a few essentials.

The simplest form of infographic organization is a list.

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Use a numbered list to show rank or order when you want to provide textual information about each element (for example, when describing a linear process)

Strategy Infographic Template
Strategy Infographic Template


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You can also use pyramid charts to show hierarchies or rankings of information, especially those that dont require as much text:

Pyramid Chart Simple Nature Trophic Template
Pyramid Chart Simple Nature Trophic Template


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Use a table to organize when you want readers to be able to look up specific values

Tables are best when precise values are required, when viewers need access to individual numbers, or when the dataset contains a number of different units (which would be challenging to visualize on a single graph).

Modern Content Marketing Quarterly Report Template
Modern Content Marketing Quarterly Report Template


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To emphasize the most important data in your tables, apply a few unique design touches.

When working with tables in the editor, you have a few options to customize the look of your table. Under the data tab youll see options to select fonts and background colors.

Best chart - June-2020-Updates2
Best chart - June-2020-Updates2

Here you can choose different fonts, font sizes, styles and colors. You can also select specificcells and apply a unique background color to make your information pop.

If you need to align your text, switch over to the settings tab. Under body options you can choose the horizontal and vertical alignment of your text within the cell. These simple features help to effectively organize your information.

Best chart - June-2020-Updates8
Best chart - June-2020-Updates8

While tables can provide a lot of detail, they dont give you a sense of the shape of the data, so its often a good idea to include tables as a supplement to a more visual chart.

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Use simple boxes, borders, arrows, and lines to visually organize groups (as seen in Venn diagrams, mind maps, and flow charts).

Most of the other methods of organizing information rely on two basic principles:

  • Using shapes and borders to create groups
  • Using lines and arrows indicate the relationship between groups (i.e. connect groups)

Some popular infographic charts that use these principles are the Venn diagram:

best chart
best chart


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And the mind map:

Communication Mind Map
Communication Mind Map


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With Venngages new Smart Diagrams, you can easily customize mind maps for a variety of needs. Add or remove branches or circles with the click of a button.

mindmap-add-node
mindmap-add-node

Swap out text, icons, images, and the Smart mind map automatically resizes for the changing elements. Use the Tidy feature to automatically realign all the shapes in your mind map.

Want to change the style of your shapes? Use the format button in the menu to quickly copy and paste formatting to one or all shapes.

mindmap-maker
mindmap-maker

To find the best organizational chart for your infographic, think about the structure of your information and find a chart that reflects that structure.

Our flow chart makerwill simplifythe design process for you. Orcreate a Venn diagram.

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Best types of charts for revealing relationships

Two key types of relationships you might want to reveal within a dataset are correlation and distribution.

Use a scatter plot to reveal the correlation and distribution of a two-variable dataset

Scatter plots are the easiest way to explore a potential correlation between two variables, and can also reveal the distribution, clustering, and outliers of a dataset.

Colorful Scatterplot Chart Template
Colorful Scatterplot Chart Template


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Scatter plots are handy because they dont require the data to be aggregated or pre-processed to reveal the distribution of a dataset.

Make your own scatterplot for free with VenngagesScatter Plot Maker.

If youre willing to do some preprocessing or you already have nicely aggregated data:

Use a histogram to reveal the distribution of a single variable

Histograms are the standard way to display age demographic data and are great for all kinds of distributions.

Market Segmentation Chart Template
Market Segmentation Chart Template


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Quick tips for infographic chart design

Now that weve covered how to choose the best chart for each ICCOR goal, its time to talk chart styling.

At best, properly styled charts can make your infographics clearer and more persuasive.

At worst, poorly designed charts can be misleading, create confusion, undermine the credibility of the author. If youre interested, check out how bad chart design was used in the media to skew data during the 2016 U.S. election.

To make sure you create charts that are clear, accessible, and 100% above board, lets review some chart design best practices.

Start chart axes at zero, and use consistent intervals for tick marks

One of the biggest data visualization faux pas is axis truncation. Starting the axis of a bar or line chart at some value other than zero is a sure-fire way to distort your data.

In most cases, its best to start your axes at zero. If you choose not to, make sure you have a good reason for it. Similarly, make sure the scale of your chart is apparent by labeling your axes with regularly-spaced tick marks at logical intervals (such as every 5, 10, or 100 units).

Reduce non-data ink

Your data should always be the star of the show.

Data visualization guru Edward Tufte coined the term data-ink ratio to emphasize the importance of minimalism in chart design. The general idea: a large share of the ink required to print a graph should directly represent data-information.

Basically, things like borders, gridlines, background colors, and other extra decorations should take a backseat to the points, bars, or lines that actually represent the data.

Do your best to lighten labels and gridlines, diminish colors, eliminate backgrounds, avoid borders and outlines, and above allget rid of any 3D or other special effects.

best chart-data-ink-min
best chart-data-ink-min

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Dont forget labels, legends, and annotations

Labels are your friends.

Chart labels, headings, and annotations should be used to explicitly state the things you want your readers to take away from your chart, to eliminate the possibility of misinterpretation.

Dont be afraid to be redundant, either. Its okay to repeat key takeaways in both a subheading and an annotation, like the data visualization design example below.

Product Sales Pie Chart Template
Product Sales Pie Chart Template


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When labeling lines, bars, or points, try to avoid relying on a separate legend. Place labels as close to their corresponding data points as possible, so that your reader doesnt have to search to match up labels with data points.

Oh, and dont forget to include your data sources. Link to your data source at the bottom of your infographic in small type (less than 10 pt size). Pro Tip: Use a link shortener to make your link easier to access.

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Use color for function, not decoration

Color use plays a significant role in how busy your infographic will appear.

To make sure things dont get too messy, dont use more than six colors in any given chart. When youve got more than one chart in an infographic, use those colors consistently across all of your charts.

Metrics report template
Metrics report template


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For more complex charts, choose one key color to distinguish more important values from less important values (and use gray to attenuate the data that you want to be less of a focus).

Competitor Analysis Chart Template
Competitor Analysis Chart Template


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In contrast, dont rely on color to make your chart legibleyour chart should be just as meaningful in black and white as it is in color.

best charts color use-black-and-white-03
best charts color use-black-and-white-03

Order data logically

Present your data in an order that your reader will expect.

Have a time series? Order it with the earliest data point on the left and the latest data point on the right.

Have a pie chart? Starting at twelve oclock, order segments clockwise from largest to smallest.

best chart
best chart


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Representing categories that have no natural order? Consider ranking them from largest to smallest.

Simple Editorial Chart Template
Simple Editorial Chart Template


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Keep it simple!

Finally, when visualizing data in an infographic, I urge you to exercise restraint. Dont overload your charts with too much data.

Infographic data must be easy to understand at a glance. If theres too much going on in the chart, your reader is likely to give up and move on.

Some rules of thumb:

  • Use less than 6 lines in a line chart
  • Use less than 10 bars in a bar chart
  • Use less than 7 segments in a pie chart

If this means manipulating your data (by removing points, grouping points, or by looking at shorter spans of time), take time to consider the tradeoff between readability and data accuracy. Try to reduce your dataset down to its most essential pieces without introducing inaccuracy or skewing your data.

If you cant get around including a ton of data, its not the end of the world. Contrasting a single bright color with muted greys can help your readers make sense of even hundreds of data points:

best chart-keep_it_simple
best chart-keep_it_simple

Source

A good way to make sure that your chart is simple enough? Have a friend look it over, and resist the urge to explain it to them. If your friend cant understand your chart without any verbal explanation, its too complex for an infographic.

Alternatively, do a squint test. Squint your eyes until you cant read any textdo you still get something from the chart? If not, simplify your charts a little more.

best chart - squint test
best chart - squint test

Source

So to sum all of this up:

  • be diligent with your axes
  • use color thoughtfully
  • minimize the non-data ink
  • dont forget about labels and annotations
  • cite your sources
  • order your data logically
  • dont overload your chart with too much data

Luckily for you, the default styling of Venngages chart widgets takes care of a lot of this chart design stuff for you. Just click the chart you want to use, pop in your data, and youre good to go!
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Conclusion

The power of well-presented data should not be underestimated, and the right chart can make all the difference. Use the ICCOR Method to choose the best charts for your infographic data.

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