How to Enhance Your Story with Charts and Infographics

I highly suggest you check out the USA Today Snapshots. They are, “easy-to-read statistical graphics that present information on various issues and trends in a visually appealing way.” New Snapshots are posted on the USA Today Web site Monday through Friday.

Here’s a quick run down of some basic charts/graphs.

Pie Charts

Depict percentage values or proportions by showing the parts that make up the whole.

  • The rule of thumb is generally no more than 6 – 8 slices.
  • Add different colours for each slice to differentiate them.
  • Try using other shapes (not just circles).

Pie Chart Examples
USA Today Snapshot Pie Chart Example - Nosy Neighbors

USA Today Snapshot Pie Chart Example - Fast Food

Line Charts (aka Fever Charts)

Shows connecting points on a graph that measure change over time.

  • Connect the dots to draw a curve.
  • Lines that rise/fall dramatically are more interesting.

Line Chart Examples
Line Chart - Gas Prices Example

Bar Charts

Compare two or more items by depicting data as columns side by side (horizontally or vertically).

  • Every bar must be labeled.
  • Bars may be screened, colourized or given 3-D shadow effects, as long as data isn’t distorted.
  • The scale must also start at “0” to ensure the bars are accurately proportional.

Bar Chart Examples
Bar Chart - Candy Bars Example
(Haha, it’s a candy bar chart. Get it?)

Bar Chart - Manager Wins Examples

Fast Facts

Look at the Who-What-When-Where-Why and find the facts that can best be highlighted in a fast-facts chart.

  • Analyze the details and explain what it means in text.

Fast Facts Examples
Fast Facts - Footballs Example

Chart/Graph Tips

  • Simplify: Convey one idea at a time. Focus tightly on key point.
  • Use understandable values: Avoid jargon (or explain it if you must use it). Avoid kilometers, acres, knots per hour, Celsius. Convert foreign currency to U.S. dollars.
  • Round off: Say “nearly doubled” or “about one third” it’s accurate and understandable.
  • Put budget numbers in context: Explain what will be gained/lost. If tuition goes up, explain how much it will cost a typical student.
  • Above all, be accurate!
  • Cite sources (link to the raw data when possible)
  • Double-check all math And have someone double check you.

Information from Inside Reporting by Tim Harrower.

Data Sources

U.S. Department of Justice — Federal Bureau of Investigation Crime in the United States

U.S. Census (a lot of great data)

CDC Data and Statistics

Nutrition Data

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Fed Stats


Infographics often combine charts/graphics in a unique way to tell visually tell a story or explain a concept.

Infographics are best for:

  • How things work or how to do something
  • Where humans can’t go (space, microbiology)
  • History (timelines)
  • Geo-locational events/stories (plotted on a map)

Infographic Examples
Coffee Drinks Illustrated
The proportion of ingredients for popular coffee drinks and their pronunciation keys

Burning Fuel: The Average Car vs. The Average Human

Timeline of Search Engine History

Process Flow Chart

More examples of “How to” infographics can be found at

Some really cool infographics can be found at

Tools & Tech

To take a screenshot of your chart/infograph to post online, follow these instructions:

On a Mac

  • Hold down SHIFT+APPLE+4.
  • Use your mouse to draw a box around your chart/infograph.
  • Let go of your mouse and the Mac will capture a picture of what you boxed out.
  • The screenshot will be saved as “Picture 1” on your Desktop or User Home folder.
  • Open the screenshot in Photoshop, resize it (for this class make it 650 px wide). Then, save the image as a PNG or GIF
  • Upload the image to the class blog. Don’t forget to include a Title, Caption and the Source (link to the source if possible).

On a PC

  • Open the Microsoft Paint program. (Under Start > Accessories > Paint)
  • Click on the Edit menu and Paste the screenshot in Paint.
  • Crop around the chart and SAVE AS a GIF.
  • Open the image in Photoshop, resize it (for this class make it 650 px wide). Then, save the image as a PNG or GIF
  • Upload the image to the class blog. Don’t forget to include a Title, Caption and the Source (link to the source if possible).
  • Once it has uploaded, click the “Insert into Post” button at the bottom of the window.
  • Once you have inserted the chart/graph, it should look like this:

    SB - Pie Chart Example

    If you chart/Inforgraphic is too small to read at 650 px wide, link the image in your post to a larger image.

    If you are using OmniGraffle, Visio, PowerPoint or Photoshop, save your infographic as a JPG, GIF or PNG and post it to your blog following the same instructions as above for inserting an image in your post.

    Leave a Reply

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

    You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

    Google photo

    You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

    Connecting to %s