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Make Your Graphs Look As Good As You

November 1, 2013
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Do you have what it takes?

Have you ever been in a situation, a meeting for instance, where you had to deliver a lot of numbers and other data through graphs? Were your numbers the only things that were speaking, where you were only an interlocutor, a medium through which the numbers expressed themselves? Perhaps at that point of time you might have thought a splash of color might liven things up a bit, wake the soon-to-be-asleep UP!

Have you stopped to think about whether you are that person? Well, I don’t think you want to be that person.

Who you want to be is the magic-bringer and the story-teller. Perhaps tell a story through your numbers and graphs. A story of hard work, blood, sweat and tears. Or maybe a simple story that everyone would understand! Or maybe even one that would make you catch your boss’ eye.

You want to be smart about how you do it. After all, the point is to let the numbers speak for themselves and leave an impression on the minds of all who view them. You have to make them understand your story simply and you have to make them understand why your story is different.

So, let’s take a look at some graphs. What do you think is the best? Keeping it simple? I think so too and so do millions around the world!

1) You’d do better without the background

Backgrounds add distraction. It doesn’t look very good either, does it? Remove the background so that it matches the slide background.

#EduPristine Tips - How to Make Your Graphs Look Better

2) One set of labels is just fine

We are intelligent individuals. We’d be able to make out from one set of labels on the x-axis what would be on the y-axis. If the labels add to your story, go ahead and add them. Don’t add them if you don’t need to.

#EduPristine Tips - How to Make Your Graphs Look Better

3) Yellow might not be my color

The whole point of all these various tips is to maintain simplicity. The less ostentatious it is, the better it is. Let the data speak for itself. The yellow borders seen here might distract the viewer. Doesn’t look too good either. So remove it! #EduPristine Tips - How to Make Your Graphs Look Better

4) Rainbows belong in the sky

Colors are pretty. They brighten things up. But let’s not try that on the graph. Highlight the bit that is the most significant part of the graph with a color that will stand out. #EduPristine Tips - How to Make Your Graphs Look Better

5) No shadows, 3D or other effects

Get rid of everything ostentatious. The point is in the numbers. Not the fancy effects!

#EduPristine Tips - How to Make Your Graphs Look Better

6) Bold Text is not necessary

It is not that the bold heading is unsightly. It has more to do with the fact that the lesser the formatting, the better it is. So keep it to a bare minimum!

#EduPristine Tips - How to Make Your Graphs Look Better

8) Let’s clean things up

The grid lines might be of use to some. But if your presentation and the numbers presented do not require any external support, you’d do good. So get rid of the grid lines.

#EduPristine Tips - How to Make Your Graphs Look Better

9) Let’s clean things up a bit more

Why don’t we get rid of everything on the y-axis and make the graph look as pretty as a button? So what you need to do is ‘add labels’ to each part of the graph. The corresponding label gets attached automatically.

#EduPristine Tips - How to Make Your Graphs Look Better

Well, lo and behold! We have a nice enough looking graph without much decoration. Perhaps my eye-color coordination is a little off. But you get the message! The point is to ultimately ensure that your graph speaks for itself, the numbers that it represents and not the colors and designs that it might be including.

#EduPristine Tips - How to Make Your Graphs Look Better


About the Author

Trusted by Fortune 500 Companies and 10,000 Students from 40+ countries across the globe, it is one of the leading International Training providers for Finance Certifications like FRM®, CFA®, PRM®, Business Analytics, HR Analytics, Financial Modeling, and Operational Risk Modeling. EduPristine has conducted more than 500,000 man-hours of quality training in finance.


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