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2.4 Area Graphs

In today’s lesson, I will teach you about Area Graphs. You can think of area graph as a cross between a regular line chart, which examines a trend, and a stacked bar chart. Area graphs can also deal with parts of a whole, which add up to a hundred percent. In that regard, they also share a feature of pie charts. Let’s learn to use them properly.

  • Always show the zero baseline: Since area graphs display discreet quantities, if you truncate the data, it misrepresents the information.
  • Be accurate: If you are representing parts of a whole, make sure the data at each point along the time axis adds up to 100 percent. Go back and double check your numbers if something doesn’t look right.
  • Use color properly: Use color for the different categories, but don’t get out of control. Your graph should not vibrate. Even with a monochromatic color scheme, don’t alternate lights and darks. That starts to look like a zebra.
  • Don’t use 3D: It adds no meaning to the graphic, and it distorts the data. Apple Numbers and Microsoft Excel allow you to do all kinds of wacky 3D effects. Resist the temptation and stay away from 3D.