Strata Gems: Quick starts for charts

Make your charts more informative and interesting

We’re publishing a new Strata Gem each day all the way through to December 24. Yesterday’s Gem: Use Write your own visualizations.

Strata 2011If you’re trying to summarize your data, you’ll likely show it in a chart. It’s easy to reach for a “standard” option, perhaps even the much-maligned pie chart: few of us leave education with a repertoire of more than a few chart types. Aside from giving your audience visual ennui, the usual suspects can be limited in what they convey.

This probably isn’t news to you. You may be a disciple of Tufte, and have read the wealth of advice on creative effective charts, but where do you start? Here are a few ideas, spanning different toolsets and platforms.

Excel: Chart Chooser

Juice Analytics’ Chart Chooser is a chart-style recommendation engine. Indicate the motivations behind your chart (one or more of comparison, distribution, composition, trend or relationships) and it’ll suggest a chart type to use.

Going one step further than just recommendation, the chart chooser offers Excel and Powerpoint template files that you can alter and fill with your own data. Now there’s no excuse for not understanding the vagaries of Excel chart controls!

Chart Chooser
Some of the 17 chart types available from Chart Chooser

R: Advanced Charts

If you’re using the R statistical computing package, many chart types become available to you. D. Kelly O’Day has compiled many resources while documenting his personal journey into creating effective graphs and charts.

Initially reluctant to leave the familiarity of Excel and VBA, O’Day took the leap to learn R because of the availability of advanced chart types. His web site provides many visual examples of chart types, along with the R code to generate them, and enlightening and detailed blog posts about how to create the charts.

The Web: Tableau Public

Tableau is a leading visualization software package. The release of Tableau Public gives you a way to get started with Tableau and create publicly shareable visualizations that are interactive and render in standard web browsers.

Tableau’s public edition is available for free and public use. Once data is published, anyone can see your visualizations or download the data and create their own visualizations from it. Take a look at Tableau’s gallery of examples.

Tableau Public Screenshot
A screenshot from The Tale of 100 Entrepreneurs

Learn more at Strata

Naomi Robbins, author of Creating More Effective Graphs, will be presenting an in depth tutorial on Communicating Data Clearly.

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