Chart Styles in the new Microsoft Office

This post is brought to you by Robin Wakefield, a Program Manager on the Graphics team.

I have been working in the data visualization area for the last two releases and this is a feature I hold dear to my heart.  In a previous article I talked about how you can make your charts look professional using Excel 2007.  In the latest release we worked with our amazing design team in Office to modify the default style for charts and create a variety of other styles which should make this task much easier.  Of course the example used in the previous article was a customized chart so you won’t get that chart out of the box but you will have a clean nice looking chart to start with.

Introducing the new default style

When you insert a chart in Office 2013 you will see some noticeable differences.

Office 2010 Default


Office 2013 Default

Overall I think this a vast improvement from the past and a basic chart in Office will look great without any additional effort on your part.  Here are some of the changes we made and why:

  • Chart title is added by default.  Most charts out there will have a title so it made sense to have one by default.
  • Legend is moved to the bottom for a column chart.  This gives the actual chart more room and the legend is meant to be a reference vs. the center of attention.
  • There is no legend added for a single series chart.
  • All lines and text are toned down as to not draw too much attention away from the chart itself.
  • There is spacing between the series.  We thought this was more aesthetically pleasing and we balanced this spacing with the spacing between categories so the grouping is still clear.

You will also see that not every chart type will have the same exact defaults as we have optimized it for that particular chart type.  For example on a scatter chart you will now get horizontal and vertical gridlines by default.

Additional chart styles

Now that you have a clean beautiful chart by default you could just go with that, but sometimes you really want to make an impact and do something a little different.  We previously introduced the buttons that showed up when you select a chart in Chris’s article and the new chart styles are contained in the second button.

Here you will see a variety of chart styles that are optimized for the chart type that you currently have selected.  These chart styles not only have the power to change the formatting of your chart but they can add, remove, and re-arrange elements on your chart.

For example applying the second style will make your chart look like this:

  • The title has been made bold for prominence and there is a slight spacing between the characters.
  • The legend has been moved to the top.
  • The value axis on the right has been removed and the data labels have been added instead.
  • The horizontal gridlines have been removed since there is no value axis present.
  • The text on the category axis has been set to all caps and there is a slight spacing between the characters.

Here is a sample of different styles applied to the chart above:

A sample of different styles applied to a chart
We also offer a different set of styles when a chart has only one series, since you can be a little more creative when you have small amounts of data to show on a chart.  When I reduce the chart above to one series you will see the following options appear:

And this is only scratching the surface because we also offer different styles for each chart type. Check it out and let us know what you think!

Chart color options

Not only do we offer an amazing set of styles we also have the ability to change the base colors used in these styles.  If you click the Colors tab you will see a variety of color palettes based off of the document theme:

 Maybe you are not a huge fan of orange?  In that case you could change to the fourth colorful option and your chart would look like this:

Adding a fourth color option to your chart
Going back to a chart with one series you can see that we have set the background color as the base color palette rather than the columns on the chart.  If you chose the fourth colorful option for this chart it would change the base color to use the first color in the palette which happens to be green.

Additionally if you want more control over the color palette of your chart you can select a different theme color palette for your document or create your own.  In each application the way to do this can be found as a hint at the bottom of the gallery if you hover over the text “How do I change these colors?”.

Go try out the new styles and colors with your charts and let us know what you think!

Robin Wakefield
Program Manager — Graphics