How to choose the right chart

Picture with all kind of chart types

If you are wondering how to choose the right chart, this article is for you.
Choosing the right chart or graph could be an amazing journey if you follow these simple steps:

  1. Know your data type
  2. Know your objective
  3. Choose the chart type

If you are aware of your data type and objective, jump straight to the Chart Chooser tool and start having fun. By the way, the Chart Chooser tool helps you narrow down chart choices based on your data type and objective. However, keep reading if you want to know more and/or refresh your memory about data types and visualization objectives so that you can create compelling charts or graphs.

Let’s get started.

1. Know your data type

The first step is to identify the data type. It is essential to know your data type, so you choose the right mathematical techniques and chart types to extract insights from the data. There are two types of data: categorical and continuous. If you are not familiar with those data types, feel free to check the previous articles about Categorical Data Type 101 and Continuous Data Type 101.


2. Know your objective

Now you know your data type; next is to know your objectives. There are many objectives when it comes to visualizing a data set. Here are the most commonly used objectives:

  • Comparison
  • Composition
  • Relationship
  • Hierarchy
  • Distribution
  • Flow


Comparison estimates the similarities (or not) between two or more elements. Line, Bar, Bubble charts, and Treemaps are often used to compare categorical data.

The line chart below compares the wind speed of two different towns from February 13 to February 15.


Composition shows the constituent parts of an element. Donut, Pie, Stacked Bar, and Stacked Column charts are often used to visualize composition.

The demo below displays the air composition using a donut chart.


The relationship demonstrates how one variable affects other variables. Scatter and Bubble charts are often used to visualize the relationship.

The demo below displays the relationship between height and weight for 507 males and females.



Hierarchy is a system where elements are arranged or ranked. Treemap, Sunburst, and Circle chart are used to visualize hierarchy.

The organization chart below shows the managerial hierarchy at Highsoft.



Distribution depicts the frequency of a variable through time or space. Scatter, Histograms, and Pyramid charts are used to visualize distribution.

The histogram chart below displays the distribution of the Somali population in 2021.



The flow is the action of moving along in a steady and continuous stream. Sankey diagram and Gantt are the main charts used to visualize the flow.

The demo below visualizes the flow of the estimated US energy consumption in 2017.


3. Choose the chart type

The steps above will help you narrow down your chart choices; the job is still not over. You still have to decide which specific chart will glean the best insights from your data set. However, don’t worry. I’ve got you covered with the Chart Chooser tool. Go ahead and explore the tool using your knowledge of data types and visualization objectives.

I hope this article will help you create effective charts using this three-step process.

Let me know your experience and questions in the comment section below.