Interesting Charts in Excel

My name is Xuanyao (Cindy) Jiang, and I am so excited to say hello and introduce myself!  I am a first-year master’s student pursuing Systems Engineering in SEAS. I got my new identity in WIC three weeks ago as an inaugural WIC-EC program intern! I have conducted several Excel workshops and office hours both in the Weigle Information Commons and the Education Commons. I also plan to organize workshops for Access and other software programs in the future.

Today, I am going to talk about something that interests me: charts in Excel.

There are two kinds of charts in Excel: Those boring and neat ones, and those astonishing, sophisticated charts.

To create a chart is not hard, but how to make it look more professional and precise involves some tricks!  I will introduce to you some interesting kinds of charts in this passage.

1. Waterfall chart

When you want to see how different parts of a total contribute to the final calculation, a waterfall chart (sometimes called a cascade chart or a bridge chart) can be a very useful visualization tool.





2. Unequal width histogram

Stacked versions of these charts are often used in marketing where the horizontal axis is divided up into the segments of a market, with the width of each segment proportional to sales in that segment. The vertical axis is divided into the competitors in each segment, with each block proportional to that competitor’s sales or share of the segment.

Here is an example from the Wall Street Journal – Voters Cast Their Ballots With the Economy in Mind, Exit Polls Indicate

Normally, according to the poll results, we should have a stacked bar chart like this:


However, WSJ used variable widths charts to make the segments clearer – This bar chart not only demonstrates the differences of results, but also shows the population distributions by age.

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 1.02.15 PM

3. Gauge Chart

A gauge/speedometer graph is comprised of multiple components to give the illusion of one chart. The background is an image or donut chart. The needle is created with a pie chart. The numbers and text are done with text boxes.

Here is a simple sample of a gauge chart:

Screen Shot 2014-03-21 at 7.25.11 PM

So…Do you know how to create these fancy charts in Excel? Please stop by at the Weigle Information Commons during my weekly Excel office hours, and I will show you how to make your Excel charts more attractive!

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