Today’s media landscape is rife with data. So much so, in fact, that every working professional has had a need to implement a form of data visualization by graphs one way or another. Utilizing a graph maker is a full-proof way to make a graph easier and faster, yet Microsoft Excel has always been a go-to for many.
For all of Excel’s raw computing and data management prowess, operating it can get a little complicated, especially if you want to do something that’s a touch above basic.
So in this guide, we aim to demystify Excel and provide you with the tools you need to create eye-catching charts that’ll make your data readable and aesthetically pleasing.
How to Insert Graphs into Excel
We begin by inputting or importing our data into Excel.
For the former, ensure that your data is imported correctly. Take care to avoid empty cells, duplicate data, or erroneous figures. To assess if your import is clean, check out this guide to clean data.
But, for simplicity, our example will only use one data point, as shown below.
Don’t forget to dictate your data type to ensure your graph will show correctly. You can do so by going to the Home tab, where you’ll find the Numbers section.
Once your graph’s XY axes are defined within the data, then it’s time to actually create the visuals. Go to the Insert tab, highlight the data you want to use, then click on your desired format from the Charts section. We went for a simple 2-D bar chart.
That’s all you need to know for making basic charts.
Should you want a more in-depth tutorial, feel free to peruse Microsoft’s official help page for chart-making. There are a lot of types of graphs in Excel to choose from by default.
Now we move on to enhancing its aesthetics.
Making Charts in Excel Visually Exciting
Adding subtle improvements and final touches to your visuals will ensure that it leaves a memorable impression. That doesn’t mean having a complicated design, though. In fact, improving your chart’s readability and accessibility should be your main goal.
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Correct subtle design traits
There are a lot of small adjustments you can make that can add up into making your chart look more appealing:
1.) Remove the background lines
While background lines can be helpful in spotting small differences between data points, they’re used very rarely, which means they can be taken out without consequence. To do so, go to the Chart Design tab > Chart Layouts section > Add Chart Element, which can be seen in the leftmost part of the ribbon.
A pop-up menu labeled Format Major Gridlines should pop up. Under Major Gridline Options, select the no line option. Your graph should now look much cleaner:
2.) Reduce unnecessary negative space
Because the bars are so spread out, it may seem disjointed. Rectify this by going to the Format Data Series menu, which can be found by right-clicking on any bar on the chart. Then adjust your Gap Width settings accordingly. You may also tinker with the Series Overlap option if you have more than one data set.
3.) Shorten long labels
Whether it’s a numeric or alphabetical value, long labels can make your chart look unnecessarily cluttered. You can abbreviate your words within your data or, if you’re dealing with numerical values like in our example, then you can apply the following steps to shorten your zeroes to “K’s”.
Right-click on your label, then select Format Axis. Its menu should pop up on the right. Go to the bottom and expand the Numbers option, then select custom. Enter the following formula (#,##0.0, “K”) in the text box under Format Code, like so:
Click add. Your graph should now look like this:
4.) Adjust font and color according to branding
This step is self-explanatory. As long as you follow the look and feel of the brand you’re creating your report for, then it will look more cohesive with the rest of your material overall.
All the options under the Format tab allow for these adjustments. Simply click on the element of the graph which you want to change then the style you’ve chosen after, and it will apply automatically.
You may also click on the Title or Legend areas of your chart to edit that text directly, and make them as visible or minimal as needed.
Tinker with the Chart Design tab
There are a variety of pre-made options you can use under the Chart Design tab if you’re looking for easy solutions to customization. The theme and colors of your graphs can be changed by exploring the many options available there.
The Quick Layout button, found at the very left of the options ribbon, also offers a variety of more unique options should you wish to change it up.
Sort Your Data
Data visualization’s main purpose is to help in assessing trends in data, so it stands to reason that your chart must do the same. You can do this by sorting your data first; the inserted graph will then follow suit automatically. Charts are dynamic in Excel, after all.
To do so, select your data, go to the Data tab, then click on the Sort option.
Depending on what data you’re handling, your sorting strategies may differ, so it’ll help to know how to do it in a myriad of ways. Here’s a more in-depth guide to organizing your data.
Final tips for Excel graphs
Creating graphs in Excel is much like creating any other sort of report, it is all about communicating complex ideas in a brief, digestible, and appealing manner. As long as you are able to present your information in such a way that allows easier engagement, then you can’t really go wrong with the design.
Just be careful when sorting data, check for duplicates, and ensure that you minimize unnecessary elements in your final chart.
As with everything, it helps to keep things neat and structured. Happy designing!