December 4, 2011

Choosing a good chart type – A Cheat Sheet

Charles Schaefer’s session at TCC11 “Understanding and Working with Chart Types” included this decent flow diagram for choosing a chart type.  As the title says, it’s “A Thought-Starter”.  In other words, use it as a way to get you going down the right path.  This absolutely shouldn’t be taken as gospel; use your common sense.  For example:

  1. Don’t ever create 3D area charts.  In fact, don’t ever create a 3D chart of ANY kind.
  2. Never create a circular area chart
  3. When created a stacked column chart don’t connecting the same colored bars with lines.

You can download the materials from Charles’ session here.  Included are a JPG and PDF version of the flow chart.

The flowchart originates from a blog post back in 2006 on The Extreme Presentation Method blog.  This blog, in turn, links to an interactive version of the chart chooser on Juice Analytics.  Although Tableau does a lot of this thinking for you, definitely check out the interactive tool to get a feel for some best practices and download the sample excel workbooks to quickly recreate these charts yourself.