Designing Charts: Designing and Formatting Chart Elements

Here are some guidelines for better understanding how to work with text elements in your data visualizations.   

  1. Choose the right font: When it comes to picking a font for your chart, it’s essential to go for something clean and easy-to-read. Popular choices include Arial, Helvetica, and Calibri. Keep in mind that the font you choose should be consistent throughout your visualization for a more cohesive look.
  2. Font size matters: Ensure that the text in your chart is large enough to read comfortably without straining your eyes. As a general rule, aim for a font size between 10-14 points. However, feel free to adjust this according to the platform (print, web, etc.) and target audience. For example, you may want to increase the font size slightly for better readability when designing for web or mobile devices.
  3. Use text hierarchy: Establish a clear hierarchy of information using different text styles, sizes, and colors. For instance, you could use a larger, bolder font for chart titles, a medium-sized font for axis labels, and a smaller font for data labels. This helps users quickly understand the chart’s structure and find relevant information.
  4. Limit the use of ALL CAPS: While using capitalization to emphasize a specific element is compelling, excessive use of all caps can become overwhelming and difficult to read quickly. Reserve all caps for critical elements like chart titles or axis labels.
  5. Keep labels short and precise: When labeling your data points or axes, try to use concise and easily understood labels. The clearer and simpler the label, the more accessible the chart will be for your audience. For example, instead of using “Percentage of people with a specific condition,” you could use ” % with the condition.”
  6. Use color and contrast wisely: When adding text elements to your chart, it’s essential to consider color contrast so that the text is easily distinguishable from the background or other elements. Pick colors that are easy to read and stand out against the background, like black or dark grey for light backgrounds and white for dark backgrounds.
  7. Avoid overly creative formatting: While it may be tempting to get creative and use a mix of fonts, colors, and styles for your text elements, remember that simplicity is key when it comes to readability. Stick to one or two easily read fonts and use colors and formatting changes sparingly to maintain a clean, professional look.
  8. Position labels effectively: Be mindful of where you place your labels on your chart. Labels should be close enough to the associated data points to avoid confusion without overlapping or causing clutter. Rotate labels if necessary to save space and improve legibility.
  9. Make use of legends, notes, and annotations: To provide additional context or explanation for specific elements in your chart, you can add legends, notes, or annotations. Place these supplementary text elements in an area that’s easy to find but doesn’t distract from the primary chart content.
  10. Test your design: A critical step in designing effective text in your chart is to test your design with others. Gather feedback about readability, comprehension, and overall design aesthetics. This feedback will help you refine your chart text elements and ensure they are accessible and informative. 

By following these best practices for designing and formatting chart text elements, you can create engaging, informative, and easy-to-understand data visualizations.