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    Introducing the Essentials, a Chart Choosing Tool

    Updated on: May 6th, 2015
    Data Visualization

    Last summer, my husband was traveling for work and I had the house to myself for an entire week. I could’ve binge-watched Sex and the City or eaten crumbly crackers in bed, his one-and-only marriage deal breaker.

    Instead, I designed my own chart taxonomy (while binge-watching Sex and the City and eating crumbly crackers, of course).

    I sketched all the charts I use on a regular basis on 3.5 x 5 inch index cards:

    Sketches of charts I use on a regular basis on 3.5 x 5 inch index cards:

    Then, I sorted and grouped and sorted and grouped the index cards:

    Grouped and sorted index cards.

    A week of sorting and grouping later, I realized my husband was about to return from his business trip. He probably wouldn’t want to come home to a living room covered in charts.

    Crap! How was I going to store the schema I’d been thinking about all week?

    I tried to squeeze my chart chooser onto a PowerPoint slide.

    I tried to squeeze my thought process into mind mapping software.

    Nothing worked. I couldn’t bring myself to create something static. I wanted to give you a chance to explore the charts for yourself.

    Last fall, the Chart Chooser website was born.

    For the past eight months I’d only been sharing my chart chooser with workshop participants. Today I’m opening to site to everyone.

    Emery's Essentials, an Online Chart Choosing Tool.

    See the filters along the top? You might say, “Hey Ann, just show me the charts that are good for visualizing patterns over time.” You’ll see line charts, slope charts, and a variety of small multiples layouts.

    Emery's Essentials, an Online Chart Choosing Tool that can be filtered.

    Or, you might say, “Hey Ann, just show me the charts that are good for visualizing a dispersion, spread, or range of data.” You’ll see options like the histogram, population pyramid, or box-and-whisker plot.

    Emery's Essentials, an Online Chart Choosing Tool that can be filtered.
    Then, you can click on the chart icons that interest you and you’ll be led to a separate page. You’ll see descriptions of that chart type, and in most cases, links to examples and tutorials.

    Emery's Essentials, an Online Chart Choosing Tool showing an example of spark lines and spark bars along with a description.

    The site’s not finished. It’ll never be finished.

    I have no plans to add every single chart type known to mankind. I want to focus attention on the charts that give you the best bang for your buck — the essentials.

    But I will continue adding descriptions, examples, and tutorials for the entirety of my career. Enjoy the ride!

    More about Ann K. Emery
    Ann K. Emery is a sought-after speaker who is determined to get your data out of spreadsheets and into stakeholders’ hands. Each year, she leads more than 100 workshops, webinars, and keynotes for thousands of people around the globe. Her design consultancy also overhauls graphs, publications, and slideshows with the goal of making technical information easier to understand for non-technical audiences.

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