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The Art of Excel Charting



Yesterday while going through my feeds, I have landed on this post about the demographics and use-figures of various social networking (2.0) tools, et al (by businessweek) on think:lab blog. When I looked at the BusinessWeek’s graphical representation of demographics and usage figures of social networks, the first thought that came to me is, “well, this is something challenging to do in Excel“. So I started creating the chart in the most famous cell software :D, just to show you how the graph looked on BW site (click on it to see the bigger version),

the demographics and use-figures of various social networking (2.0) tools, et al(by businessweek)

(Download download the art of excel charting spreadsheet)

First up I tried creating a graphlet, a 10 by 10 cell grid that can be filled by ‘1’s based on a number between 1 and 100. The ‘1’s should be filled from left to right or right to left based on direction mentioned in a cell.

This task is simple, lets say the grid is from a1 to j10 and a11 has ‘the number of cells to be filled’ and a12 has the direction (either “R” or “L”)

The formula for any cell in the range of a1 to j10 would be,
= IF((ROW($a$10)-ROW())*10+11*(IF($a$12=”R”,0,1)) + (-1)^(IF($a$12=”R”,0,1))*((COLUMN($j$10)-COLUMN())+1)< =$a$11,1,"")

the above formula essentially means,
if direction is Left to Right,
if row of the cell * 10 + column of the cell is less than or equal to a11
return “1”
else return “”
if row of the cell * 10 + 10 – column of the cell is less than or equal to a11
return “1”
else return “”

Once I have the grid filled with required number of 1’s, I have applied conditional formatting (read: Creating cool dash-boards using excel conditional formatting) to change cell’s a ‘1’ in them to some color and blank ones to gray like this,

PHD Art of Excel Charting 2

The output was something like this,

PHD Art of Excel Charting 3

Now all I have to do is multiply this over the entire 7 columns and 6 rows like the BW’s graph and change the fill colors in conditional formatting. The final output looked something like this (click on it for a bigger version),

PHD art of excel charting 1

To end with, I have found out that doing this type of charts doesnt take much time although you need to have the creative juices to come-up with formats like this. What do you think?

For those of you who want to see how this is done and do a little bit of playing around, download the art of excel charting spreadsheet.

Also read:

PS: the images are from BusinessWeek.


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13 Responses to “The Art of Excel Charting”

  1. [...] read : Create dash boards in Excel | How to draw impressive charts in Excel | Changing the default chart settings to impress [...]

  2. [...] this? Also learn how to create artistic grid charts as an alternative to pie charts, beautify your charts with these 73 designer quality templates, put together in-cell pie charts, [...]

  3. [...] see: The art of excel charting - making ubercool dashboards Junk the default charts, use this art grade templates instead Did you fire a bullet graph today? [...]

  4. John says:

    I love this chart, and so does my CIO! However, I was wondering if it would be possible to show two data series in this way - e.g. no of servers in production vs. total no of servers?

    I have hurt my brain and made my eyes bleed trying to get the two sets of figures overlapped (as in a stacked barchart with 100% overlap, but my "IF" writing is just not up to it - any ideas?
    thanks 🙂

  5. Chandoo says:

    @John ... I guess you are planning to create a chart where in each square area you want to show 2 blocks, one at the bottom with no. servers in prod and another bigger blog with total servers ...?

    assuming no. servers in A1, total servers in A2 and the block of area which you want to fill with 1(if it should colored for no. servers in prod), 2(for total) and blank (to be left blank) is in C1:L10

    you can write formula like this:

    =if((10-row())*10 + 12-column() <=$a$1,1,if((10-row())*10 + 12-column() <=$a$2,2,""))

    Once you have 1,2 and blanks, just use conditional formatting to fill the squares a la square pie.

    You may want to read this: http://chandoo.org/wp/2008/07/10/partition-charts-visualization-fun/

  6. John says:


    Many thanks for that - I see where I was going wrong (easy when you know). All I need to do now, is sort out automating my offsets and replicate it across 6 products and 12 months 🙂

  7. Chandoo says:

    @John: Awesome...

  8. [...] Artistic dashboards in Excel. Very cool. Tutorial available here. [...]

  9. [...] Medals by Country | Survey Results Dashboard | Test Cricket Statistics | Dynamic [...]

  10. maverick says:

    Hi Chandoo,
    i totally lost with this formula....

    1] from where is the data on which this chart has been based?
    = IF((ROW($a$10)-ROW())*10+11*(IF($a$12=”R”,0,1)) + (-1)^(IF($a$12=”R”,0,1))*((COLUMN($j$10)-COLUMN())+1)< =$a$11,1,"")

    2] what does (ROW($a$10)-ROW())*10 give?

    3] why are you (multiplying by 10 and then adding 11 * (0 or 1) + (-1) raised to (0 or 1) * lastcolumn - column no + 1) is equal to A11?

    how did you arrive at such a formula?

  11. ROB says:

    Bump. I recently came across this post and was wondering if it is possible to expand on the logic of this formula?

  12. Andy says:


    I have created a bar graph chart showing schemes with a "start on site" date and "finish" date (from left to right on a stacked bar chart) but want to show a solid line (vertically)with the current date(updating daily) showing how far through the time scale we are. is this possible?


  13. Lionel says:

    Very nice formula, but as you use absolute addresses, you cannot copy the block to another location, you have to adapt the formula each time.

    One solution is to use an array formula, with relative addresses, you can then copy the full block any where, and all works.

    For example, my block start in B2, and my array formula is '=IF(IF(D13="R",(9-ROW()+F13)*10+COLUMN()-H13,(9-ROW()+F13)*10+9-COLUMN()+H13)>=B13,"",1)'

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