Chapter 21. Charts: Giving Shape to Data

They call economics the dismal science, but iWork’s stunning charts can brighten even the grayest numbers. When deployed correctly, graphic charts add energy and insight to your data. Bright colors, 3D effects, and effortless formatting—that’s anything but dismal.

The trick is how to hang onto the “science” part while you’re at it. The point of a chart is to clarify the message behind your data, showing visual trends and relationships that may not be immediately evident from staring at the numbers themselves. It takes care to create a graphic that does this well. Great charts tell a complicated story at a glance; poorly designed charts can confuse and mislead. (Perhaps you want to mislead—that takes a carefully designed chart, too!)

This is where iWork’s remarkable chart features are both a blessing and a curse. Numbers is chock-full of options for decorating, labeling, coloring, shading, and even twirling your chart into just about any form you’d like. It’s an impressive toolkit, and the results always look polished; you can create a chart in seconds that looks like a whole art department labored over it for hours. The problem is that it’s easy to get so carried away with formatting the chart that you lose track of its message, sacrificing substance for flash. Your charts should be more than a pretty graphic or a splash of color in the annual report—they should enhance people’s understanding of your data.

The good news is that you can have ...

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