A Bit More On Charting

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Last week, in response to my post on charting, Harlan pointed at a few Economist charts as examples of professional charts.  Today, I spent a few minutes with Excel 2007 trying to create a similar chart.  I thought I would share the results.

The chart in question is located here.  It is a line chart with a title and some series labels.  Here is a screen shot.

Source: The Economist web site

To start with in Excel, I typed in the data (source: The Economist web site) and inserted a line chart …

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Here is what you will see in the beta build when you insert a line chart.

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As you can see, the Excel chart looks similar in composition with respect to good charting technique – there are no graphic effects, and the data is emphasized, axes, tick marks, and gridlines have been subdued to allow the data in the plot area to stand out more.  Next, I decided to fiddle around with a few settings to see how hard it would be to get things closer.  A few clicks to add a title, change where the vertical axis is, and resize the chart a bit and I had something looking very close.

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The one major difference is that the legend is outside the chart, and in the chart plot area next to each series.  Again with a few more clicks, I removed the legend from the chart and added two text boxes (“OECD” and “Germany”) and positioned them near the appropriate data series.  With a few more clicks, I have something very close.

(Click to enlarge)

The point I am trying to get across here is that our default styles (and many of the other styles we include in Excel) are, I believe, what a lot of people are looking for with respect to “professional” and “effective”.  (I know there are features that would make the above easier, and like I said in the previous post, we are planning to continue to work in that area going forward.)  Here is what the same chart looks like when turned into a bar chart … again, the focus is on clarity of data.

(Click to enlarge)

So that’s it for today.  Download the beta, try the styles, and let us know.  As always, feedback welcome.