So Which Graph Should I Choose?

If you are opting to use graphs as a visual tool to communicate a message to the end-user, using the right type of graph is one important cornerstone. Ask yourself: what is the question and what is the graph going to show?

The five most common purposes of using a graph in business life are:

 

1.   Evolution / Deviation

 

Purpose

Evolution and deviation show times series, time patterns, changes over time, and the set of values could be one for evolution or several for deviation.

Example

Sales per month for evolution, sales per month compared to budget and last year for deviation as shown in the visual examples below.

Best graph types to use

Line graphs, bar graphs, bullets. If you are missing data for a each period, a scatter plot should be used instead of a line graph.

 

Graph types 1

 

2.   Ranking, Comparison

 

Purpose

Here you are sorting and comparing your sets of values by parameters, such as size, or importance, or percentage, etc.

Example

An example would be to compare your sales data in different geographical regions.

Graph types to use

Bar graphs, slopegraphs, Scatter plots

 

Graph types 2

 

3.   Structure, Composition

 

Purpose

Structure shows the proportions, components, or part-to-whole of a set of data.

Example

You want to view the proportion of your sales in different geographical regions, or the sales volume of your top five customers and their size of total sales.

Graph types to use

Stacked bar graphs, Pareto graphs

 

Graph types 3

 

4.   Distribution

 

Purpose

Distribution lines up your set of values along an axis.

Example

An example is the annual salaries, skill level or age group of your employees by intervals.

Graph types to use

Histograms

 

Graph types 4

 

5.   Relationships, correlations

 

Purpose

This type aims to find out patterns or relationships between two or more sets of values.

Example

You would like to position your products by size and market growth as in the BCG-matrix.

Graph types to use

Scatter plots, positioning graphs

 

Graph types 5

 

Graph types 6