Data Storytelling: Selecting Charts to Answer Questions

When choosing charts, it is crucial to consider the question you want to answer because data visualization is all about helping your audience understand the story behind the numbers. To create a compelling and meaningful visual, it’s essential to choose a chart that aligns well with the underlying message you wish to convey.

Let’s dive into how to choose a chart that aligns with the question you want to answer for your audience. Here are some examples:

  1. Identify the question: Start by understanding the goal of your visualization. What question do you want to answer? What insights do you wish to convey? For example, you might want to answer, “What are the sales trends over time?” or “How do different regions contribute to overall sales?”
  1. Understand your data: Familiarize yourself with the data you have, such as the variables, their distribution, and the relationships among them. This knowledge will help you select a chart highlighting the data’s most relevant aspects. For instance, a bar chart might be an appropriate choice if you want to compare sales between regions.
  1. Consider the chart types: Various chart types can address different questions and cater to distinct analytical needs. Here’s a quick breakdown of some common chart types:
    • Bar charts: Ideal for comparing categorical data or illustrating changes over time. For example, showing sales across different categories or over different months in a year.
    • Line charts: Great for visualizing trends, time series data, or continuous data. For instance, displaying changes in temperature or stock prices over time.
    • Pie charts: Perfect for illustrating proportions or percentages, such as the market share of different companies or demographic data.
    • Scatter plots: Useful for revealing relationships or correlations between two continuous variables, like height versus weight or advertising spending versus sales.
  1. Choose a chart that answers the question: Pick the chart that best addresses the question you want to answer based on your understanding of the data and chart types. If you’re unsure, experiment with different chart types and assess their effectiveness in communicating the message.
  1. Fine-tune the visualization: Once you have chosen a chart type, refine the design to make it more engaging and accessible to your audience. This includes using appropriate colors, titles, labels, and legends to highlight your data’s key insights.


By identifying the question, understanding your data, evaluating different chart types, and fine-tuning your design, you can create visuals that resonate with your audience and convey valuable insights.

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