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2.1 Line Charts

Welcome back to Information Graphics. In this lesson, we’re going to talk about Line Charts. You use a line a line chart whenever your data is about a trend. So if these kinds of words come to mind – growth, change, decrease — and so on, you know that a line chart is the way to go. A line by itself has no meaning. It’s only when we give it context that we can see the shape of the data over time. Let’s learn to use them properly.

  • Make sure you’re telling the whole story and the accurate story.
  • Look for outliers in your data: This is when Numbers or Excel comes in handy. You can make a quick chart with the click of a button, and readily see if something looks off. If so, go back to the source, or whoever gave you the data and double-check. Think about labeling any dramatic changes to give your readers more information and explain any apparent outliers.
  • Pay attention to line weight: When you have a lot of numbers, a too-heavy of a line can obscure subtle changes.
  • Use increments on the value axis that make sense and are easy to comprehend: People don’t usually think in multiples of six, for example. You don’t have to label every single value, but keep it to increments that people use commonly.
  • No 3D: Numbers and Excel let you create 3-d charts very easily. You can even adjust the lighting and add drop shadows, and who know what else. Resist the temptation! Your graphics should be about information, not decoration.