Bar Graph: Definition, Examples and How to Create One

Mahnoor Sheikh

Written by:
Mahnoor Sheikh

bar graph - header wide

A bar graph is a great way to deal with complex and confusing data.

Visualizing data makes it easier to extract knowledge and draw conclusions from a large swath of information. And a bar graph is one of the best ways to do that.

From students and researchers to business professionals, anyone can use a bar graph to effectively communicate data and findings.

In this post, we’ll introduce you to the different types of bar graphs and how you can easily create one to use for your own data.

Let’s get started!

 

What is a bar graph?

A bar graph, or bar chart, is a visual representation of data using bars of varying heights or lengths.

It is used to compare measures (like frequency, amount, etc) for distinct categories of data. A typical bar graph will have a label, scales, axes and bars.

A bar graph is usually plotted across two axes; one axis shows the categories being compared and the other presents the measured value, such as percentages or numbers, via bars of different lengths.

Ready?Create a bar graph using the Visme Graph Engine!Try It For Free

Take a look at the bar graph example above.

This basic bar chart shows the top 10 podcast publishers in the US. Here, the “distinct categories of data” are the ten different podcast publishers and the “measured value” is the unique monthly US audience.

Like the example above, most bar graphs put an independent variable on the x-axis and a dependent variable on the y-axis while graphing data.

Bar graphs may be used to map just about any type of data, from crop yields to participation in school activities to household median income for a country during a period of time.

 

Types of bar graphs.

When it comes to bar graphs, there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all. The example above is very simple, but bar graphs can be modified to represent data sets of varying complexities.

Bar graphs are of many different types. They may be horizontal or vertical, they may make use of colors, and they may take on a grouped or stacked appearance.

Below are some of the major types of bar graphs.

1. Vertical

The most commonly used bar chart is like the one seen above. A vertical bar chart is simple and easy to understand—the taller the bar, the larger the category.

Check out the example below.

Ready?Customize this bar graph template and make it your own!Try It For Free

It is obvious that the greatest number of people in Britain between 1999-2000 visited the cinema when compared to any other cultural event. The vertical bar graph above tells you this at first glance.

2. Horizontal

The vertical bar graph works for most data types, but it becomes challenging to manage when the distinct categories on the vertical axis have long titles that would be difficult to fit on the bottom, or when there are simply too many categories to fit at the bottom.

This is when horizontal bar graphs are useful.

Here’s an example of a horizontal bar graph.

Ready?Customize this bar graph template and make it your own!Try It For Free

A horizontal bar chart is almost the same as a vertical bar chart. The only difference is that the categories in a horizontal bar graph are on the vertical axis.

3. Grouped

In a grouped bar chart, each categorical group has two or more bars.

This helps show information about the different sub-groups belonging to the categorical group. A consistent color scheme is employed so that each bar represents a sub-group throughout the chart.

Below is an example of a grouped bar graph.

Customize this bar graph template and make it your own!

  • Upload an Excel file or sync with live data from Google sheets
  • Choose from 16+ types of charts, from bar and line graphs to pyramid and Mekko charts
  • Customize anything, from backgrounds and placement of labels to font style and color

Edit and Download.

Let’s dig deeper into how the bar graph above was plotted.

An American store owner named Adam has three stores (A, B, and C) and wishes to graphically represent the profit that he has generated from each of them in the first four months of 2017.

Adam’s independent categories are the months: January, February, March, and April. He plots these on the x-axis, while the profits generated during these months (in thousands of dollars) are plotted on the y-axis.

Adam’s categorical group of ‘months’ is further divided into subcategories, each represented by a distinct and consistent color. The resulting graph above makes it easy to see and interpret the data.

A grouped bar graph may be horizontal or vertical depending on the nature of the data.

4. Stacked

A stacked bar graph is another way to show information about sub-groups within a main categorical group.

In a stacked bar graph, each bar in the chart represents a category and segments in the bar represent parts of that category.

This type of graph is a good way to represent the discrete values that make up a whole group. It can numerically represent the sub-groups that make up a category.

Take a look at the stacked bar graph example below.

Ready?Customize this bar graph template and make it your own!Try It For Free

Here’s how the bar graph above was plotted.

The owner of a hardware store wishes to graphically represent the items her employees have sold in the month of January 2019.

There are four employees: Andy, Stacey, Charles, and Marvin. This independent variable can fit accurately along the x-axis, while the dependent variable, the number of items sold, is plotted along the y-axis.

The resulting graph is shown above.

The things the owner wishes to measure sales for are locks, pliers and hammers. Notice how a distinct color is assigned to each and the graph clearly shows which employee sold the most items, as well as the amount sold for each sub-category.

This stacked bar graph, therefore, becomes an example of a visual representation of data where the subcategories can be seen making up the whole.

We can easily infer from this graph that Andy had the most sales overall (11 items) while Charles sold the least amount of pliers (only 1) in the month of January.

Like grouped bar graphs, stacked bar graphs can be plotted horizontally or vertically.

 

How to make a bar graph in Visme.

Now that you’re aware of the different types of bar graphs out there, let’s find out how to create one for your own data.

Before online design tools like Visme, creating bar graphs on your computer was a pain. And even if you did design one in Microsoft Word or Excel, it ended up looking plain and generic.

Visme is a cloud-based design software, which means it lets you create graphs, charts and other graphics right in your browser.

You don’t even need any design or technical skills to use it. All you need is your laptop, data set and a good internet connection.

There are two ways to make a bar graph in Visme:

  • Using a bar graph template
  • Using the graph maker

Method 1: Using a bar graph template

To get started, sign in to your Visme account and open up your dashboard. Navigate over to the left-hand sidebar and click on “Create.”

Click on “Infographics” and type “bar graphs” into the search box.

Ta-da! You’ll see a large collection of editable bar graph templates, all designed by professionals and ready to use for any kind of data or project.

bar-graph-templates

Ready?Create a bar graph using your favorite template!Try It For Free

Hover on your favorite bar graph template and click on “Edit” to customize it for your own project.

Once you’re inside the Visme editor, you can easily edit the bar graph data and replace the values with your own.

Click on the bar graph, and then click on “Settings” at the top to get inside the graph engine.

If you don’t want to enter your data manually, you can easily import it directly from an Excel file or Google sheet.

create a graph - input your data

Ready?Create a bar graph using the Visme Graph Engine!Try It For Free

As you feed data into the graph engine, you’ll be able to see a live preview of what your bar graph will look like on the left.

Pro-tip: You can also switch between different types of graphs, such as horizontal bar graphs, pie charts and even pyramids, by browsing through the options on the left side of the graph engine.

Once you’ve uploaded your data, customize the bar graph colors, labels, fonts and more to create your ideal bar graph. You can also enable animation to make your bar graph look even better. This is especially useful if you plan on publishing your bar graph online.

Finally, click on “Update” to insert the bar graph into your visual.

Next, change the background and title. Edit, add or remove any other text or graphic elements around your bar graph as you see fit.

When you’re happy with the way your bar graph looks, download it in image or PDF format by clicking on the “Download” button on the top-right corner of the screen.

download-bar-graph

You can also share your bar graph with specific people using a link or embed it on your website or blog by clicking on the “Share” button.

share-bar-graph

Method 2: Using the graph maker

If you don’t find any bar graph template in Visme that works for you, you can always create your own bar graph from scratch.

Sign in to your Visme account and click on “Create” on the left-hand side of your dashboard.

Instead of choosing a ready-made template, click on “Custom Size.”

custom-size

Ready?Create a bar graph using the Visme Graph Engine!Try It For Free

Enter in the dimensions that work for you or choose one of the commonly used sizes below. For this tutorial, we will use the Presentation (4:3) size.

Once inside the Visme editor, navigate over to “Data” in the left-hand sidebar and click on “Charts.”

blank-canvas-add-graph

Ready?Create a bar graph using the Visme Graph Engine!Try It For Free

The first thing you’ll see is a vertical bar graph on the left and customizable settings on the right. This is where you can design your unique bar graph.

Enter in your data manually or upload it directly from an Excel or Google sheet.

Edit the bar graph colors, labels, fonts, sizes and more until you’re completely happy with the way it looks.

When you’re done creating your bar graph, click on “Insert” to add it to your visual.

create a graph - personalize your graph

Create your own bar graph using Visme!

  • Upload an Excel file or sync with live data from Google sheets
  • Choose from 16+ types of charts, from bar and line graphs to pyramid and Mekko charts
  • Customize anything, from backgrounds and placement of labels to font style and color

Sign up. It's free.

Place the bar graph wherever you want on the canvas and add a title, subtitle and other text content by clicking on “Basics” on the left.

You can also add icons, shapes, images and other graphic elements. Customize colors and fonts, or add a background to make your graph look even better.

When you’re done creating your perfect bar graph, download it in your favorite format, like JPG, PNG or PDF, and use it on it’s own or as part of your presentation or report.

You can also share it online using a link or embed it on your website or blog using a responsive code by clicking on “Share.”

That’s it! You’re done.

 

Ready to make your own bar graph?

Bar graphs are one of the most visually appealing and effective ways to present complex data and explain research findings to your audience.

Creating a bar graph for your next presentation, report or research is a breeze with Visme’s graph engine.

Literally anyone can use it—students, designers, business professionals and more!

Share your findings on social media by making mini-infographics in Visme. Or create full, long-form infographics with bar graphs to publish on your blog. You can also download your bar graphs in high-resolution image or PDF format to print out as hard copies.

Sign up for a free Visme account now and start creating your bar graph online in minutes.

If you want to read up more on data visualization, here are some articles from our Visual Learning Center that you might find useful:

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About the Author

Mahnoor Sheikh is the content marketing manager at Visme. She has years of experience in content strategy and execution, copywriting, graphic designing, art direction, and more. She is also the founder of MASH and is passionate about words, colors, tea and kittens. Get in touch with her on LinkedIn.

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