I am an Excel graph connoisseur. I look at graphs differently than many people, sure I look at the data and the message they are trying to communicate, but I look much deeper. I look at the rotation of the axis labels, the thickness of the bars, or if they added gradient shading or a 3D effect. Did the graphic artist consider layering the graphs by using the combo graph feature? I’m so disappointed when published articles from reputable business publications use out-of-the-box, vanilla-style charts to express their message. Please take a little more time to be clever and at least make all the words readable.
One of my pet peeves is when the vertical axis is not rotated to read left to right. Please take the time to make it easier to read for your audience. Also, please use more color with labels and data so the reader can understand which data relates to which data point.
Please don’t use plain flat colors when you can use gradient coloring to provide a more 3D effect without using the 3D option, which often distorts the graphic trends by twisting the graph.
There are many upgrades to an Excel graph that can be performed. It really just takes a little time to make your output a little more polished. How I improved my Excel graphing skills was to simply benchmark others who were much better than me. I found that Excel can duplicate nearly any graph. Try looking at the Wall Street Journal or, better, the Economist for some creative data illustrations. I kept trying to improve my skills by replicating others and by watching a few good YouTube videos.
Please cover the basis when graphing – to be sure your message is understood, all the fonts are readable, and add additional text when needed. It is truly a rewarding experience once you develop an impressive graph template to use in the future. Happy graphing!
Below is a how to video that improves a standard Excel chart to a more interesting and readable graph.