Lecture Notes

Lecture Four

Data Presentation Styles

Why do we use graphs? 

Graphs are used to make comparisons easier. However, the incorrect graph is often used when information is presented. For example, people tend to overuse the bubble chart due to how it looks aesthetically. However, it is important to make the data look understandable and easily interpreted for comparisons.


Alberto Cairo, The Functional Art, 2013

The surface area of objects is harder to determine, compared with the height or length of an object. The brain and eyes of a human can easily compare a single dimension such as the length or height of an object. However, we are unable to calculate complex dimensions such as the surface area of an object. Furthermore, calculating the area of circles is more complicated than the area of squares. Furthermore, our brain doesn’t waste time to determine how big an object is when it is far away, such as a bear. This is the hard and wide nature of our vision.


Alberto Cairo, The Functional Art, 2013


Alberto Cairo, The Functional Art, 2013

The 3 most common charts:


  • Displaying trends and changes in data over a period of time.
  • For example, stock price change over a 5 year period.



  • Makes comparisons between things.
  • Very useful, easy to use and most people have familiarity with it, they don’t need to relearn a fancy type of chart.
  • Reveals highs and lows at a glance.
  • Effective with numerical data that splits into different categories so you can see trends with the data.
  • Good to use this chart when comparing data with many different categories.



  • Used to show the relative proportions or percentages of certain categories.
  • Shouldn’t be used for too many items as it will complicate it and not allow us to understand the comparisons



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