Excel Chart Templates

It’s easier to communicate when your data is the most prominent feature of your chart.  Start from good templates.

Basic Excel charts draw focus to themselves instead of the data at hand, by defaulting to include dark gridlines, dark lines and tick marks on each axis, a dark border, color-coded series, and indirect labeling. However, visualization master Edward Tufte and others have taught us that less is often more. By avoiding ‘non-data ink,’ chartjunk, and formatting ‘gloss,’ we can improve the visual clarity of — and therefore the effectiveness of — our data visualizations.

Time is valuable. This means that we should use tools that are good by default. To that end, I have created a series of templates for the six basic Excel chart types.

The basic formatting choices that distinguish these charts from Excel defaults are: light gray gridlines, no axis lines, no tick marks, no borders, and no legend [if you need to describe multiple series, consider the technique of small multiples]. If color encoding (as was done for the pie chart) becomes necessary, you’ll have to do this manually.

(you’ll need to recolor your series manually to achieve the monochromatic blue effect, as shown in the pie chart)

To use these templates, save them to your template directory, which is probably:

C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\Microsoft\Templates\Charts

Then, the next time you want to insert a chart, select ‘All Chart Types’ from the bottom of any ‘Insert’ –> ‘Chart’ menu and then ‘Templates.’ You should see any templates saved into your templates directory as options.

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