How to Choose the Right Graph

Great stories happen to those who can tell them. - Ira Glass

One of the constant struggles that you and I face is choosing the right visual for all the data that we manage. Tens of spreadsheets and reports flow through our hands everyday and we constantly have to find the best ways to visualize data in a way that conveys all the meaning that we want to transmit.


There are certain guidelines that can really bring the most out of the data you have. One of them is the widely renowned "Chart Chooser" by Andrew V. Abela from Extreme Presentation.


What Abela suggests is to first determine what it is that you are trying to show by deciding between options like Comparison, Relationship, Distribution and Composition. Then you can start deciding which is the optimal chart for your visualization depending on a combination of several factors like periods, variables and items.

  • Variables: a quantity which during a calculation is assumed to vary or be capable of varying in value. Such as metrics, KPIs and measures like "Quantity Sold", "Revenue", "COGS", "Days of Inventory", etc.

  • Periods: a length or portion of time. Such as days, weeks or months.

  • Items: a distinct part in an enumeration, account, dimensions, or series. Such as "Categories", "SKUs", "Sizes" or any other attribute that represents entities.

  • Time: Static information is when you want to show a snapshot of current or past period. Changing Over Time is when you want to show the trends across time for different variables.

When you have to take so many factors into consideration you can feel rather lost. One of the hardest parts of choosing the right chart is understanding how to visualize different variables, periods and items in the same chart.

One of the hardest parts of choosing the right chart is understanding how to visualize different variables, periods and items in the same chart.

To help ease this problem, we put together an interactive version of the "Chart Chooser" that allows users to see examples of charts, examples of the data behind the charts and an other ideas of how to visualize this data.


In each dashboard, you´ll find 3 things:

  1. Example Data: a table containing a combination of Variables, Periods and/or Items.

  2. "Chart Chooser" Recommendation: the chart that Abela recommends for this specific purpose and combination of variables, periods, items and time requirements.

  3. Other Options: other chart options that show how, in comparison, how the same data would look in other charts.


You can find the full screen version here: https://bit.ly/Ventagium-Chart-Chooser


Or you can view the version below:



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