Are you focusing on F word or S word? [Charting Principles]

Posted on June 17th, 2009 in Charts and Graphs - 0 comments

When you are making a chart next time, spend just 5 minutes (or even less) on the formatting and give more time (may be 20 minutes) to think about the story.

Often we spend a lot of time fine tuning our chart formatting that we neglect the story. We fail to understand what the bars and lines mean. Most of the charts (even the real ugly ones) can be cleaned up and made presentable in a few minutes. Unless you are giving a keynote presentation about the next iPhone, I don’t think spending more time fine tuning formats is necessary. But even the simplest charts can often take hours of story-telling.

Thanks to newer and better versions of charting software, making pretty charts is an easy job. But telling compelling stories, alas, no software can match you.

Don’t confuse formatting with overall chart making process. You still need to spend sometime figuring out the right chart. That is why Jon and I have started the new chart doctor, where we take badly made charts and convert them to better charts so that it is easy to tell the story.

More naughty but very important charting lessons:

PS: The name chart doctor will be changed to something more sexier and wittier, thanks to the issue we faced. Know more from here, here, here and here.

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