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This is an example of the default settings for a bar chart in Excel. This is functional but could be far more effective; here are my main steps I use to create quick, effective data visualisations.

  • Remove chart borders.
  • Show data in a useful order (alphabetically, or ranked, or some other important order).
  • Keep gridlines and reduce their colour, or remove them entirely.
  • If you remove gridlines, consider adding data labels.
  • If data labels have been added consider removing y-axis labels.
  • Add axis titles where the values shown aren’t inherently obvious.
  • Reduce the colour used in the chart.
  • Highlight the important data points.
  • Use white space effectively, but don’t leave excessive amounts.
  • Where possible use a chart title that helps the user see the points that you’ve highlighted and their context. Annotate any other points you’ve highlighted, why are they interesting?
  • Use colour to create a relationship between your annotations/title and the highlighted data points.

These steps will help you turn your default Excel charts into impactive and attractive data visualisations:

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