It's no secret that I think visuals should dominate words in a presentation where any type of slideware is used. But if the word 'visuals' immediately makes you think 'pictures' or 'photographs', reconsider. Charts are an elegant way of graphically representing many types of information, making it easier for the viewer to grasp not only meaning but context as well.
Thanks to Chris Spagnuolo at the EdgeHopper blog for alerting me to this wonderful video about the benefits of charts.
Charts come in a variety of shapes and sizes which makes them all the more versatile. Thinking about what relationships you want your data to convey will help you choose the best chart for your purposes.
A bar chart is a popular method of showing relative relationships or numerical comparisons. Different colored bars can be used for additional emphasis. This type of chart allows for a strong image when there are only a few data points. When, however, there are numerous bars, the labeling can get confusing. A bar chart would be good to show, for example, the number of cases of influenza reported in the U.S. for the last 5 years or the number of pieces in different packages of M&M candy. (Attribution: katiescrapbooklady, Flickr)
Pie charts are typically used when showing proportions, for example the percentages of stock, bonds and cash in a financial portfolio or the sources of energy use. With the various proportions representing slices of a pie, it is easy to see the relationships between each of the elements. Different colored slices, like with the bar chart, can be used for emphasis. If each slice needs a lot of labeling to be understandable, it's best to show a legend off to the side, with a small box of the appropriate color next to each label.
The stack graph is a useful way of displaying data that needs to be viewed both independently and cumulatively, as in this example of types of mail received over a specific period of time. (Attribution: sidehike, Flickr).
A tag cloud is a visualization of word frequencies, which is useful for showing relative relationships. For example, showing two State of the Union addresses as tag clouds would give you a visualization of the density of certain words and terms, thereby conveying an overview of the important concepts. Here's an intriguing way of showing comparative property values. (Attribution: urbanwild, Flickr)
What other types of graphic representations have you found to be an effective way to convey your information and engage your audience?