CHAPTER 10 Choosing the Right Chart Type

Understanding the purpose of different chart types will help you decide which visualization to use for your data in order to communicate information most effectively. Bar charts and line charts are well documented in most data visualization books and you will find them in most of the chapters of this book as well. This chapter will focus on the charts that are not discussed as often, several of which have sparked a lot of discussion in the Makeover Monday community. Each chart type will have four sections:

  1. Purpose
  2. Description
  3. Examples
  4. Alternatives

There are several examples of each chart type and then alternatives that can be used in a similar situation. This chapter can be used as a visual reference library for these chart types. By the end of this chapter, you should have a better understanding of why certain charts work better than others. Finally, we will provide resources that describe chart best practices in detail.

Area Charts


Show cumulative trends over time of one or more attributes of a field.


Area charts are line charts that are typically stacked on top of one another, creating a cumulative view. The area below each line is filled down to the section below, with the lowermost section filled down to the zero axis. Area charts are useful for understanding:

  1. The contribution to the total
  2. The trend of the lowermost segment
  3. The trend of the total, which is represented as the top of the area chart

Area charts ...

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