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Part of the strategy of visualizing data is choosing what type of data visualization to use. The trick is to select the one that will best represent your data’s message and story.
There are many types of data visualization. The most common are scatter plots, line graphs, pie charts, bar charts, heat maps, area charts, choropleth maps and histograms.
In this guide, we’ve put together a list of 32 data visualizations. You’ll also find an overview of each one and guidelines for when to use them.
Before we get started, watch our video tutorial for creating data visualizations:
Now, let’s get started.
The bar chart or bar graph is one of the most common data visualizations on this list. They’re sometimes also referred to as column charts. Bar charts are used to compare data along two axes. One of the axes is numerical, while the other visualizes the categories or topics being measured.
You can use a bar chart with vertical bars or horizontal bars. On vertical bar graphs, numerical values are on the y axis (vertical axis); on horizontal bars, they are on the x-axis (horizontal axis.)
To choose which style of bar graph to use, take a look at your data. If your qualitative data has long, descriptive names, then a horizontal bar chart would be the best choice. Another creative option is to use a visual axis system like in the template above. Instead of placing the category name next to its respective bar, use a color-coding system and a legend.
For a more creative approach, try using 3D bars, animated effects and photographic backgrounds. Alternatively, try creating a stacked bar chart — you’ll find the option to do so in Visme's graph settings.
The second most common data visualization on this list is the pie chart. The data in a pie chart represent parts of a whole. The entirety of the circle is the whole, and each wedge is a relevant section.
The best type of data for a pie chart has no more than five or six parts. Any more than this makes the wedges too thin at the center. If more than three values are similar to each other, it will be difficult to discern the difference. The best pie charts use contrasting colors that fit well together, making each wedge visually different from the one next to it.
If you have more than six sections to visualize, consider using a donut chart instead.
A donut chart is much like a pie chart but with the center area taken out. The difference between them is essentially visual. You can have more sections than a pie chart in a donut chart and it will still be readable.
The same rule about colors applies to donut charts; choose contrasting colors to separate the sections visually. To make them more attractive, add a 3D feature to the donut, which has more visual depth. If you’re working on a project to share online, consider adding an animation to the chart.
The half donut chart is exactly what its name implies, half of a donut chart. It’s a good choice of data visualization type when you need to showcase small data sets. Preferably, don’t use more than three wedges in a half donut chart.
Remember to use contrasting colors and use percentage values to make your half donut chart easier to read at a glance.
Use pie charts and donut charts in unison to create a multilayer pie chart. These visualizations work well for infographics and other visual representations complex data.
You can see a multilayer pie chart in the infographic below depicting emotion’s nuances in marketing language. The outside donut chart is the top-level category, the emotions. On the second layer are the descriptive sections that fit inside each main category. In the center is a small layer separating all nuances into three connotations.
This data visualization type isn’t as easy to create as others; it does take some strategizing for all the categories to fit together and be easy to understand. In technical terms, this visualization is three pie charts layered over each other.
A line chart or line graph is a data visualization type that showcases changing data over time. Like a bar graph, the line chart has an x and y-axis. The difference is that both axes contain numerical values representative of the data.
To create a line chart, input the relevant time frame along the x-axis and the quantitative measurement on the y-axis. Plot the data in the graph by connecting the time value and the numeric value. After plotting all the dots, connect them with a line.
A line graph can have one line or several. In the case of a chart with several lines, each one represents a category. Every category has a color and the description is detailed in the legend.
For an effective line graph, use no more than four or five lines and make sure the colors are different enough to be differentiated visually. To create an interactive data visualization with line charts, connect your Visme chart with a Google spreadsheet and share real time data with your team.
A scatter plot is a data visualization type used to analyze the correlation between variables. The data is plotted on the chart as dots at the intersection of its two values.
Take a look at the scatter plot example here; the values are square footage and price. Each dot in the graph represents a house. If you were to add a scatter for apartments with the same values, you’d use dots in a different color. When there are dots outside of the expected range, these are called outliers and should be taken into consideration when analyzing the data.
Use scatter plots where your variables are related to each other regarding a group of test subjects. Some of these could be the relation between weight and height in children under 18 years old, temperature-dependent sales in an ice cream shop, diabetes, and obesity rates.
Stay away from plotting too many data points on a scatter plot or it will become impossible to read. Use no more than two different color dots and always use a legend if that’s the case.
If you want to read more on this subject, check out our complete guide to scatter plots.
The cone chart is another data visualization type that shows parts of a whole, similar to pie charts. The difference is that a cone chart also visualizes hierarchy. The data with the highest value sits highest on the cone with the widest area. Other values flow in descending order towards the bottom tip of the cone.
Use contrasting colors to visualize the different values, or select a monochromatic palette to add depth to the visual hierarchy. Don’t use more than seven or eight values, as using too many will make the cone chart difficult to understand. Include a color-coded legend for a more straightforward analysis.
Cone charts in Visme have a visual 3D effect to resemble a real cone. This visual effect differentiates them from the pyramid chart, which is similar but inverted.
A pyramid is much like a cone chart but placed the other way around. The smallest data set is at the top, while the largest is at the bottom. Deciding whether you want to use a cone chart or a pyramid chart depends on how you want to present data; in ascending order or descending order.
Pyramid charts can also be created without numerical data. The sections are separated into equal parts to show a hierarchy of steps or components of a whole that are only visually hierarchical. Such is the case in the example below with the pyramid in violet tones.
A funnel chart is similar to a cone chart in shape but has a slightly different purpose. The main idea with a funnel chart is to visualize a sequential process from top to bottom. Generally, the data set at the top of the process is larger than the bottom as the process diminishes the quantity as it flows down.
The most common use for a funnel chart is visualizing an email nurture sequence or marketing strategy data. Another data set that fits this data visualization type is an admissions report or alcohol distillation process.
Just like cone charts and pyramid chats, choose the colors for your funnel chart wisely. It’s essential to create a visual difference between sections.
Radar charts are a data visualization type that helps analyze items or categories according to a specific number of characteristics. The radar chart layout is a circle with concentric circles where the data are plotted as dots. The dots are then connected to create a shape. Each item or category is a shape.
A radar triangle is a radar graph that compares items or categories based on three characteristics. Each dot is one corner of the triangle. The triangle can be composed only of lines or with a transparent color fill.
It’s important to remember that you can’t add too many layers to a radar graph or it will be impossible to analyze.
A Radar polygon is the same as the radar triangle, but the resulting shape is different. A radar triangle has three points for characteristic data, while a radar polygon has four or more. The maximum number of points is 9 or 10, the max layer of items is 4 or 5.
When choosing colors for each item, select ones that will layer well and not become a dirty mess where they all overlap — your best choice is to use a series of monochromatic tones with one base color. For example, shades of blue and purple or shades of red and orange.
A polar graph has the same circular base as a radar chart, but the data plots differently. Instead of connecting points to each other, wedges expand outwards from the center.
The difference is primarily visual. Choose a polar graph if the data values are very different to each other. Otherwise, it can be challenging to read at a glance.
The area chart is a variation of the line chart. The difference is that the area between the baseline and the values plotted on the line is colored in. The color fill is semi-transparent so that the overlapping regions are easy to read.
Even though you can switch any line chart into an area chart, it’s not always best practice. An area chart can’t have more than four or five datasets simultaneously; the possibility of occlusion is too high. Area charts are sometimes stacked, separating the data into sections as part of whole relationships or as cumulative data.
A tree chart, or tree diagram is more of a visual data visualization than one for detailed numerical data. The main idea in a tree chart is to visualize data as parts of a whole inside a category. For a more complex tree chart, layout different categories next to each other.
Choose a tree chart when your visualization doesn’t depend on granular numerical data. Better yet, if the data is hierarchical, a tree chart does a good job.
A flowchart is a highly versatile type of data visualization. Use a flowchart to visually describe a process, hierarchical data of items or persons and even a mind map for brainstorming strategy.
The best part about flowcharts is that they are easy to customize for any project — for example, a training manual or strategy proposal. Inside a pitch deck or welcome kit, a flowchart can visualize the hierarchy of the company’s teams.
Visually, flowcharts start with one header shape that branches out to a series of shapes and lines that connect. Creating a flowchart with Visme is super easy; select from the pre-designed sections or start from scratch. Every shape has intuitive options for branching and you can customize all shapes for color and size.
Tables are like mini spreadsheets and show data in rows and columns. Use a table to display pricing for a service, comparative features of a product, school reports and more.
This data visualization type fits well inside visual documents like reports, proposals and training manuals. For a unique take on a table visualization, use dots or icons to represent yes or no data about a specific category.
Visme offers six visual types of tables that you can customize to fit the rest of your project.
Maps are the ideal visualization for any data that has to do with geolocation. A data map has many uses, from country-by-country information to detailed regional analysis.
Visme's map maker works similarly to the graph maker. Input data in a CSV or via the Google Sheets integration. Use colors to color code the map to match your data and your project.
Alternatively, use the map graphics on their own and add data widgets for more complex visualization projects.
Icon array visualizations show two pieces of a whole, either as units or percentages. The most common use for an icon array is visualizing a population’s sector according to two factors. For example, male or female, remote workers or in-office workers, etc.
Each icon in the array can represent a unit or a specific amount like 10, 100, 1000. The icons are arranged according to your particular data.
In Visme, arrays are easily customizable in terms of colors and icon shapes. Select the icon that best matches your story and add the colors of your project. Use a legend to help viewers understand your values.
A progress or percentage bar is a simple data visualization type used to display a percentage value. These come in handy when creating an informational infographic or progress report. Since percentage bars are so small, they work well as a group.
Visme has several types of percentage bars in both vertical and horizontal layouts. For a balanced data visualization, use the same style in a group and use colors that go well together.
A gauge is another visualization type for percentages. The shape resembles a half donut and has a couple of uses. The simplest use is to show a percentage value with an arrow pointing to it. This is a great choice if you're dealing with a small amount of data.
Alternatively, use a gauge to demonstrate the status or goal of a project. Use a half donut chart with three of four equal values and color code for each section, such as Q1, Q2, Q3 and Q4.
Another data visualization type for percentage values is the radial wheel. This is a practical data widget for any type of visual project. Use a radial wheel for infographics, social media visuals, blogs, statistical reports and more.
Customize the radial wheel with the colors in your project and personalize the way the values are presented. Like percentage bars, radial wheel are great for group layouts.
A concentric circles data visualization is like a line chart on a circular axis. Each category or data item is a circle in the chart, and each circle has its own color and is plotted along the circular axis according to the data. Also, the circles are arranged concentrically.
For an easy-to-read chart, there should be no more than six concentric circles.
Gantt charts are based on horizontal bar graphs but are different in a big way. In a Gantt chart, it’s not about how the data changes over time but rather how long it takes to complete over a specific range of time.
Each item on the chart is represented by a rectangle that stretches from left to right. Each one has a different size, depending on how long each task takes to complete.
The best way to use a Gantt chart is with your team. Create one in Visme and share it with everyone via a link. If it needs to be adjusted, simply drag the corresponding rectangle to its new location on the chart.
A circuit diagram is a type of flowchart that visualizes concepts like technical circuits, network setups and other technical connections. These are generally simply designed diagrams without much fanfare. They need to be easy to follow at a glance.
Visme has several different network diagrams for different technical purposes like firewall setups, router setups and other basic network connections. These are great to include in employee handbooks and office documentation.
Timelines are visualizations that show events that have happened or will happen over a specific period. Use this data visualization type for informational reports about topics with a backstory or for visualizing a company’s growth story. Alternatively, use a timeline to explain a plan or objective for a project.
With Visme, you can create timelines in many different ways. The easiest is to use the flowchart tool, but you can also start from scratch and use lines and shapes. Timelines work great as infographics in vertical layouts and horizontally on one presentation slide or several consecutive ones.
A Venn diagram is a data visualization type that aims to compare two or more things by highlighting what they have in common. The most common style for a Venn diagram is two circles that overlap. Each circle represents a concept and the area that connects them is what the two have in common.
Venn diagrams can have up to four or five concept circles where the combined areas show what's in common between them. A Venn diagram with three circles has three areas with two combined concepts and one with three.
Using more than three or four circles or shapes in a Venn diagram gets very complicated. In those cases, circles aren’t always the best option — try ovals or blob shapes instead.
A histogram is similar to a bar graph but has a different plotting system. Histograms are the best data visualization type to analyze ranges of data according to a specific frequency. They’re like a simple bar graph but specifically to visualize frequency data over a specific time period.
Histograms can only be vertical, differently from how bar charts can be both vertical or horizontal.
A mind map is another data visualization type that helps brainstorm and organize ideas. Visually, a mind map is a web of shapes organized by concept and connected in order of hierarchy. A mind map can be small with only a few connected shapes or extremely large, with many shapes branching out from one or two main ideas.
To create a mind map, you’ll need the Visme flowchart maker and an empty canvas. Start with one central shape and branch off in any direction. The intuitive builder offers four possible branches that can then branch out again into numerous other ones. If you need to move things around, select the shape and line and drag it to a new location.
Mind maps are great tools in education, business brainstorming and creativity. They’re like windows into your thoughts, making them easier to share with peers.
A dichotomous key is another type of flowchart visualization whose purpose is to help with decision making. As you answer question after question, you move along the flowchart towards the appropriate answer. There are usually two answers (yes or no), but there can be three or four depending on the key’s length and complexity.
Dichotomous keys are used widely in scientific education; they help classify organisms by answering questions about their characteristics. These data visualizations also work well as infographics or blog visuals. They‘re also used in work environments to help employees make decisions about a task or situation.
We have one more data visualization type based on the trusty flowchart. A PERT chart is a combination between a circuit diagram and a process chart. The idea behind a PERT chart is to follow each item as a process. The next connected shape is dependent on the one before it and can’t be done out of order unless stated in the chart.
Create a PERT chart with the Visme flowchart maker easily. Draft out your process on paper and then simply input your content into one of our templates or start from scratch. An effective PERT chart uses different shapes or colors to represent each step’s specific characteristics.
The last data visualization type on our list is the choropleth map. This visualization is based on a geographic map but has a specific purpose. A choropleth map is a geographical representation of statistical values according to region. For example, population density in a country, visualized by state.
Values are separated into equal parts and each assigned a color. The corresponding areas of the map are then color-coded to match their value. These visualizations are perfect for non-profit organizations, health-related companies or anyone who needs to visualize statistical values related to a geographical location.
A choropleth map is perfect for creating an interactive data visualization with large data sets. Each colored region can be assigned popup data labels with information about the data being used.
What a great long list you just got through! Now you’re ready to create your own amazing data visualization.
Regardless if you’re a data scientist or a marketer working closely with data analysis, knowing the common types of data visualization is a great skill to have.
Use Visme to create all types of data visualization quickly and easily. Animate your graphs, make them interactive, instantly export them as images or PDF files, add them to reports and presentations, and much more.
If you’re a Tableau or Excel user, you can still use Visme to present your data visualizations to your team with the help of embedding and import options.
Apart from the data visualization types listed here, you can also create Mekko charts, population pyramids, bullet graphs, waterfall charts, bubble charts and box plots.
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