Selecting the Right Chart for Your Data

Sarah Dukes
15 AUG 2022

Categories:PowerPoint | Data Visualization


Data is only as good as how well you can communicate what it means. Charts and graphs should make the information clear. If you select the wrong chart type, you can either confuse the audience or lead to mistaken data interpretation. Before you create another PowerPoint presentation, make sure you choose the accurate type of chart to clearly communicate your information. Here's how.


First, Understand the Message You're Trying to Convey with Your Data

Picking a type of chart depends first and foremost on what kind of data you have and what you want to express. When you're choosing a chart, you're trying to display one of four things:


Relationship between data points

A relationship demonstrates a connection or correlation between two or more variables.

Examples: male versus female likelihood of having cancer at different ages, technology early adopters’ and laggards’ purchase patterns, shipping costs of different product categories to different regions.


Comparison of data points

A comparison separates one group of variables from another, and shows how those two variables interact.

Examples: website traffic by site of origin, percent of spending by department, stock price change over a year.


Composition of data

A composition brings together different types of information that make up a whole.

Examples: response categories from a survey, breakdown of how Americans spend their leisure time, storage usage across computer machines.


Distribution of data

A distribution shows how your data is distributed across groups.

Examples: Examples: number of customers by company size, student performance on an exam.


Next, Choose the Best Representation

Once you understand what message you're trying to send with the data you have, it's time to select the best method for displaying that information. For example, bar charts and line charts are very commonly used for the purpose of comparison, while histograms and scatterplots are great distribution charts. By far the most common “composition” charts are a pie chart, stacked bar and area charts as well as waterfall charts and tree maps. The best suite for relationships are scatterplots.


Because there can be so many different ways to visualize your data, it helps to have a basic guideline to follow. The flowchart below produced by Dr. Andrew Abela, Chairman of the Department of Business & Economics at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, can help you select the best type of chart for the message you want to send.


Finally, Try New Methods!

If you find that you're restrained by common chart types, then by all means adopt new methods. Chartrics provides automation not only for industry standard types of charts but also allows to add customizable charts to the familiar environment of PowerPoint! Combine different chart types. Add filters and sorting rules to dig deeper. Get Chartrics for free and let your data become the centerpiece of decision making!


Automatically update all your PowerPoint charts with the new data in 15 seconds.