It’s easier to communicate when your data is the most prominent feature of your chart. Start from good templates.
Basic Excel charts draw focus to themselves instead of the data at hand, by defaulting to include dark gridlines, dark lines and tick marks on each axis, a dark border, color-coded series, and indirect labeling. However, visualization master Edward Tufte and others have taught us that less is often more. By avoiding ‘non-data ink,’ chartjunk, and formatting ‘gloss,’ we can improve the visual clarity of — and therefore the effectiveness of — our data visualizations.
Time is valuable. This means that we should use tools that are good by default. To that end, I have created a series of templates for the six basic Excel chart types.
The basic formatting choices that distinguish these charts from Excel defaults are: light gray gridlines, no axis lines, no tick marks, no borders, and no legend [if you need to describe multiple series, consider the technique of small multiples]. If color encoding becomes necessary, you’ll have to do this manually (as was done for the pie chart at the bottom).
Area Chart – Download Area Chart [.crtx] Template
Bar Chart – Download Bar Chart [.crtx] Template
Column Chart – Download Column Chart [.crtx] Template
Line Chart – Download Line Chart [.crtx] Template
Pie Chart – Download Pie Chart [.crtx] Template
(you’ll need to recolor your series manually to achieve the monochromatic blue effect)
Scatter Chart – Download Scatter Chart [.crtx] Template
To use these templates, save them to your template directory, which is probably:
C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\Microsoft\Templates\Charts
Then, the next time you want to insert a chart, select ‘All Chart Types’ from the bottom of any ‘Insert’ –> ‘Chart’ menu and then ‘Templates.’ You should see any templates saved into your templates directory as options.