Three simple tips for sharper charts in PowerPoint



Quick Read

There’s a lot you can do with charts and graphs in PowerPoint. But if you want data viz that tells a story, these three design tips for charts will help you tell a great one.


1. Donuts > pies

2. Take the slack out of your bars

3. Simplify your elements




You probably already know that charts and graphs are excellent at quickly communicating numeric data in a PowerPoint presentation. And while there are lots of different types of charts you can choose, the reality is that most people will only ever use a few (we’re looking at you, pie chart). So if you want to break out of the ordinary and explore some tasty new ways to visualize data, here are some easy tips to get you started.


It’s time to make the doughnuts

While there’s no sugar in these doughnuts, the results are definitely sweet. That’s because the doughnut chart, a less-used variant of the pie chart, is a simple way to differentiate your data and add a custom look to your slides. They feature a clean, simplified and modern look, and help add some extra breathing room to dense, informational slides.


Bump up your bars

The bar chart is the other most commonly used type of infographic. And for good reason! It’s simple to scan and can quickly communicate many different types of information. But much like our tip to adjust the ring size of your doughnut chart, PowerPoint offers some easy (but hidden) ways to customize the look and feel of your bar chart. Watch and learn:


Simplify. Seriously. Just do it.

There are two big mistakes that people make when it comes to charts. Either they don’t include enough information to tell a clear story (an axis is missing a label, the chart has no title, etc), or they add WAY TOO MUCH information, leading the audience to perform a treasure hunt to find your message.


There’s no one-size-fits all solution to this problem, but in general we recommend that you simplify your charts as much as we can. In particular, avoid decorative elements and anything that doesn’t directly advance your story.


For example, if your data needs to display down to the decimal point, having data labels on each may be useful. Otherwise, your audience can get hung up on little details rather than seeing the big picture your data paints.


One last tip is to remove the legend and title from the chart and create custom versions instead. This helps to create a visual framework for each slide that makes it easier for the audience to locate information. Watch below for an example.


A little love goes a long way

These quick tips should give you the tools to easily improve the quality of the charts in your next PowerPoint presentation. But there’s one more thing to remember, and it will help you with all of your slide designs.


And that is simply to slow down and think about each slide. While dropping in a software-generated chart “as-is” may be quick, taking a few moments to look it over and make some tweaks will help you to get a more custom (and impressive) feel in your presentations.


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