Bar charts are not the right choice for every piece of comparative data. This is one of the rules you will learn as Amy Balliett explains the rules of using bar charts to visualize data, integrating real instructions for Adobe Illustrator into the video.
- [Instructor] Bar graphs are used to display trends grouped by categories or time. One axis is traditionally used to show the amount of something, while the other is used to label each bar. If you think back to the musician example that I gave in a previous video, the X axis was used to show number of units sold, while the Y axis was used to show products, which is the category being analyzed. When showing trends by category, organizing your bars form smallest to largest, or largest to smallest, will help your audience reach quick conclusions.
When showing trends over time, however, it's important to keep your bar graph in chronological order. This will help your audience correlate conclusions to certain events or periods of time. Don't use a bar graph to compare items that require different scales. Because that will complicate your message. You should also avoid using bar graphs to show percentages that add up to a whole if they aren't broken down over time. Because those would be best depicted in a pie chart. In this example, you'll see that a pie chart makes it far easier to quickly determine how overall sales break down.
Whereas, the bar chart doesn't suggest that these outline every potential product. Unless you take the time to add the numbers and realize that the add up to 100. When creating a bar graph in Adobe Illustrator, you're going to use the same graphing tool that you used for a pie chart. When you click on the tool, you'll see multiple options. There's the column graph tool, the stacked column graph tool, the bar graph tool, and the stacked bar graph tool. For the purposes of this exercise, we're going to focus on the bar graph tool.
When you click on the bar graph tool you'll see that crosshairs appear again. If I hold down the shift key while I click and drag, I'm going to get a perfectly proportionate bar graph. At the same time, if I let go of the shift key, I can actually do different proportions. I personally prefer to use the shift key as I outline my bar graphs. But you don't have to. When I let go, you'll see that I have a single bar that appears. And then I also have this Excel spreadsheet that pops up, or something at least that looks like it.
If I type in my numbers from left to right, or top down, I will still get the same amount of bars. So it's really important to know that whether you go left to right or up and down in this scenario, it's not going to make a difference. The only difference will be the spacing of the bars. Let me show you what I mean. I'm just going to input some fake data. One, two, three, four, five. When I hit the check, you'll see that I have five bars that appear. Now if I transpose that to go top down, And I hit the check, again, five bars are still there, they're just spaced differently.
So you're welcome to organize this however you wish. Stacked bar graphs are rarely used in infographics because they don't allow for ease of understanding. If we think back to the musician scenario, a stacked bar graph would make sense if you wanted to show product sales over each of your five shows, broken out by category with each bar adding up the total sales. But this requires the viewer to do the extra math to understand the total number of each individual product.
Because of the complexities of stacked bar graphs, I suggest avoiding them in your data visualizations. Instead, the same information could also be shown in a traditional bar chart and is often easier to comprehend. This is why stacked bar graphs are rarely used. As they often complicate the message rather than making it easy to digest.
To succeed in design and marketing today, one must know how to interpret and properly visualize data. This course, developed and led by Killer Infographics CEO, Amy Balliett, walks you through the ins and outs of creating accurate and compelling data visualizations. Amy focuses on best practices, not tools, although she does provide an overview of Illustrator graphing features. Using these tips, you'll learn how to stand out from the crowd and create charts and graphs that combine precision with visual appeal.
- What charts and graphs work best for different types of data
- Putting data into visual and textual context to ensure it is accurate
- Visualizing data that doesn't lend itself to imagery
- Adding visual appeal without sacrificing accuracy
- Using the Adobe Illustrator graphing tools
- Avoiding common data viz mistakes