Modeling, monitoring, and analyzing information are analytical skills.

But when it’s time to share visualizations, think like a designer to get your point across with memorable and compelling graphics.

Mastering Design Elements Outlined in this Guide Will Help:

  • You to build a more articulate and persuasive case.

  • Your audience understand and connect with data, through support for clear insights.

  • To encourage people to share and use your visualizations.
Data Visualization Guide cover


Just as a strong narrative helps structure a story, having a purpose behind every aspect of a chart or graph helps support your point.

It’s best to:

• Avoid adding more formatting than is needed to achieve data clarity.

• Avoid clutter or elements that draw too much (or too little) focus.

• Label data points and put clear titles on charts and graphs.

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Embrace clarity Chat 1
Embrace clarity Chart 2

Be Consistent

Inconsistency makes a visualization confusing or hard to interpret.

Be sure to:

Keep design elements such as color and line weight uniform.

Make certain the name and color representing a particular data point across a dashboard or related charts stays the same.

Consistent target
Be consistent 2
Be consistent 3

Support Readability

Make words as legible as possible:

Use light and dark values to create contrast instead of relying on different colors.

Low-contrast text-and-color combinations don't provide enough visual cues for people with low vision or color blindness. For specific guidance, use the WebAIM contrast checker or Altervista Accessibility Color Wheel.

Use font types, font sizes, and text orientation that are easy to read. Avoid serif fonts, which tend to lessen readability on displays. 

Choose shape fills and backgrounds that support, not obscure, numbers and text.

Support readability
Support graph 1
Support Graph 2

Achieve Balance

Simplify and make sure that what’s important is easy to see. Be sure to:

Leave the right amount of “white space” between chart elements.

Show the right number of data relationships per chart. In general, cap data-set relationships at six per chart or graph. 

Note that in cultures where people read from left to right, most viewers focus on the center and top left of a chart, giving the upper right, lower left, and lower right areas less visual importance. 

Balance Chart 1
Balance Chart 2

Get input

When you work alone, it’s easy to miss something important. What seems clear to you could be confusing to your audience. Top tips:

Get feedback on your visualization, to see if your message is getting across—ask a colleague what she thinks your chart shows, to see how her impression fits with the underlying data. 

If your message didn’t come through, adjust your visualization or try a different approach.

input chat buble
chart 1-1
chart 2

Pursue Truth

Choose a visualization that clearly shows the relationships in your data:

Pick the type of chart that best represents the data. 

Start from zero on the y axis for graphs to avoid misinterpretation—unless you have a clear reason not to. 

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pie charts

Pie charts work well for proportion comparison, but aren’t good for showing changes across time.

line charts

A line chart or combination chart shows trends well.