Chart Selection Basics

Chart Selection Basics

Data Visualization is its own art form. But like any art form, the difference between novice and a master lies in having a deep understanding of the fundamentals. In this section, we will cover the basics of data visualization by looking at the mechanics and individual elements needed to visualize data. Having an understanding will help you determine what chart type to choose and which best suits your needs, whether it is a scatter plot or radial chart, this post will provide an understanding of charts that will make it much easier to know which charts to select when working on your own projects.

Understanding Variables

In the world of data visualization, charts are represented by variables of data. In most cases, visualization of data can be broken down into two components:

  1. The type of variable
  2. The amount of variables

Data contains four types of variables:

  1. Continuous: can take any possible value (e.g. 1’4, 983). This is where values can be measured in fractional amounts so decimals make sense.
  2. Discrete: opposed to continuous, where values are finite but have no inherent order (e.g. hair color). Values can only be measured in fixed amounts so these cannot be broken into smaller amounts.
  3. Discrete Temporal: similar to discrete variable where values are finite, but specified within a time series (e.g. Monday, January 1st 1988).
  4. All of the above: a chart can display a combination of the three types of variables mentioned above. 

Your data will fall into one of these categories. The next component is to look at the amount of variables you wish to convey.

1 Variable

2 Variables

3 Variables

4 Variables

4+ Variables

If you understand this, then you already have 90% understanding of data visualization. This is because from here on out, all chart types are a combination of the type of variables and the amount of variables.

Stay tuned for more updates on how to choose charts.

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