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Graph Design

There are numerous books and articles about graphs and about what makes a good one. On this page we remind you of some basic guidelines and guide you to a few examples of good and poor practices.
A good graph should tell a complete and clear story. So preconditions are:

  • Title: A short description of the depicted subject.
  • Axes: Scale division and units of measurement are clearly stated.
  • Legend: Key to the symbols if several phenomena are shown in the graph.
  • Source: Where are the data from? 

A good graph has a high data-ink ratio. This concept stems from the famous book by Edward R. Tufte: The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. It is defined as:

data-ink ration

There are many books on things that may go wrong in the graphical display of data. For example have a look at "How to Display Data Badly" (pdf, 5 MB). This is chapter 1 of the book by Howard Wainer: Visual Revelations; Graphical Tales of Fate and Deception from Napoleon Bonaparte to Ross Perot.

On this site we have pages with some remarks regarding the following topics:

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Last modified 30-10-2012

© Jos Seegers, 2009; English version by Gé Groenewegen.