by Adam Noar
Charts. There are a lot of bad ones out there.
Too busy, too boring, too hard to read – those are the things we usually think when we see presentations.
Our advice is always to think of a creative way to display your information, and a chart is a great option – but not if you do it badly!
It’s not enough to just slice up a plain pie chart and stick it on the slide. It still takes effort and a well-thought-out design. You want to WOW your audience, but you can’t do it if your chart sucks!
But instead of just telling you to not make it suck, we decided to think about what we love about stunning charts and find ones that live up to our high standards. Then, we put them all into a list and described what we loved about each one so you can keep those elements in mind when designing your own.
So, without further ado:
Here are some charts that DON’T suck:
#1.) Light-Up Lines
This is one of those charts that you just look at and go, “Ooooh.” It just looks so cool!
The color scheme is amazing – the deep purples give it an amazing kind of “space” vibe. The person who made this clearly knows their color theory, because they have the parts they want to highlight in orange and yellow, which are complementary to purple. For a quick and dirty way to figure out a complementary color, go to the opposite side of the color wheel.
Our second favorite part about this is the minimalist feel. Everything pretty much blends in except the line, which catches your attention and is easy to read. It’s also easy to immediately see when, where, and how much they’re talking about, which is crucial in a sales trend chart.
Finally, of course, the glow. They’ve got a really cool light effect that highlights their big data points, which are the spots where the line peaks. It works exactly as intended – the first place your eye goes is the glowing areas, and it’s super easy to tell what it means. Ultimately, it blends being unique, eye-catching, and easy to read into perfect harmony.
#2.) Digestible Pie Charts
Pie charts can be amazing visually, but only if they’re easy to read. The more pieces of the pie you have, the more complex it gets. This pie has 7 slices, which could easily get too muddled and hard to read, but they did everything right here.
Why is this an effective pie chart?
First, it’s really easy to see which slice they want to highlight: House and Utilities. It’s layered on top of the others and sticks out so that it grabs your attention. It’s also connected to the breakdown next to it. Another thing we like is that the total is highlighted in the middle on top of a solid color; it’s still easy to see how big each slice is, but the number on top of every color would be hard to read. This keeps it simple.
Finally, we really like the color scheme. It’s bright and clean, without too many special effects that would lose the impact of the information, and with tons of white space to keep it feeling open. The numbers are clearly connected to the slices, and color coded. A lot of information was crammed into this slide without it ever feeling like too much.
#3.) Everything at Once
Speaking of a lot of information: wow. This is a lot of information! But sometimes you have slides like this, where you have to put all your charts on the same page and not let your reader get overwhelmed. So how do you do it?
Well, this is a great example of a “dashboard-style” slide. All these charts are working together, they’re all clean and bright against the dark background and all in a similar style. The color scheme is really nice, the green and blue look like they’re glowing on top of the dark neutral grey – somehow, instead of feeling heavy, it just feels cool and modern.
The other thing we really like is the visual hierarchy. It’s immediately clear which two charts are the main ones because they take up a larger space on the slide and jump out first. The other two smaller ones balance it out but also are clearly supporting information. They’ve got a nice mix of types of charts, too, which makes sure it’s not too repetitive. If you ever need to do a dashboard style slide, this is the way to go!
#4.) Clever Eye Candy
This pie chart is just stunning. The amount of work that went into designing something this creative and mind-blowing was totally worth it because your audience will totally fall in love with your presentation if you show them something like this.
The best thing about this chart is that it’s immediately clear what each slice of the pie represents without even doing any reading. Each slice of the pie is made of what it’s talking about! We can’t get over how visually creative that is.
Of course, the only downside is that this does take some more serious design skills, particularly for the 3-dimensional effect. But there are ways that you could apply this to your own presentation without needing advanced skills like this one.
#5.) Glowing Highlights
Here is another example of an effective line chart.
We wanted to include another one with this cool glowing effect because we just really like it! This one is also really simple – the line is easy to read and the highlights are displayed on the bottom. The added touch of putting the high number right next to the line to call out that score is really nice.
In this one, instead of making the glowing part as the peak of the line, it’s at the end as if the line is burning up. The color scheme is similar though – the deep maroon complements the bright purple, yellow, and orange beautifully.
Overall this style just flows really well and gives the presentation a fun and modern feel, balancing creativity and clarity.
#6.) Two in One
We are all about creative visuals, and this one just about takes the cake (or pie?). This is a fantastic way of inserting an image into the chart – by actually making it the chart! If you only have one number that you want to incorporate in a creative way, you can do what they’ve done here and make the visual you want to use the pie chart itself.
Another element we love is the transparent overlay to round out the color scheme. The pink is an excellent pop of color against the black & white, and is even more dramatic as an overlay to the image/pie chart combo.
This is actually one of our favorite tips for including an image and making it blend seamlessly into the slide. Once you have a color scheme, pick an image that complements your information and isn’t too busy. Then, all you have to do is put a transparent overlay on top. This ties it in with your other elements that are the same color and lets it supplement the information on the slide without sticking out like a pasted-in clip art.
One more thing to notice about the chart – see the blank space where the remaining 25% would be? Notice it’s not actually black? They’ve put some very subtle lines to fill in the remaining space in a unique and creative way.
Finally, the text is minimal and bold. The 75% on top of the chart is the perfect data point call-out, drawing the audience’s eye to that statistic immediately. The rest of the text gets progressively smaller, guiding the eye to the next most important information. Visual hierarchy, bold fonts, accent colors, transparent overlays – what more could you want?
#7.) Beautiful Bar Charts
The initial visual impact of this bar chart almost makes it look like it could be in a magazine, but looking closer, it wouldn’t be that hard to do! And it’s so creative we had to include it.
The different shades of blue are very soothing to look at and give the slide a very clean color scheme. Considering how busy the photo is, we think this was a perfect choice. There’s also the perfect highlight of a simple chart right next to the bars, which makes it stand out but draw too much attention (which should mostly be focused on the bar chart).
It looks like the designer simply cut out the bar chart from the photo, and did some transparent overlays in blue to signify the different parts of the bar. Beyond that, all it would take is a little photoshop to outline the legs of the soccer player so that they stand on their own. It gives it such a great feel and some nice movement and stands out without detracting too much from the information.
#8.) 3-Dimensional Simplicity
This is an example of an amazing chart that’s very simple, but impactful, and gets the point across while being visually appealing. It checks all the boxes, and best of all, doesn’t take hardly any design skill – it’s an excellent example for beginners.
First, the color scheme. The colors are bright and give excellent contrast – none of your viewers will confuse the red for the blue or green. Second, the grid pattern behind the bars is creative and subtle. They help the viewer orient the information without distracting from the look.
Third, the charts are 3-dimensional, but it doesn’t make it feel too busy at all. They stand out and they’re easy to read and see, but still nice and simple. Finally, the call-outs of key data points overlaid onto the charts are the nice final touch, particularly the highlighted 74.
#9.) Icon Paradise
We had to include this slide because it excels at one of our favorite things: icons.
Icons are so underrated. They can be impactful, highlight or supplement information, and decorate your slide without cluttering it. Who doesn’t love icons? Well, this designer clearly loves icons as much as we do because these are extremely well-thought-out and really beautiful.
Ultimately, they make the chart scannable and easy to understand. They’re color-coded, so it’s easy to see which slice they correspond to. They’re labeled and have follow-up information if you need an explanation. They all work well together and flow nicely. And they use extremely recognizable images – who doesn’t recognize the United States, California, or a cityscape?
Finally, the bright primary colors on top of the black background is a fun way to have a neutral background with a bit more of a punch than plain white. We do love our white space because it makes a slide look very clean and modern, but a black background can add some fun and a “cool” vibe.
#10.) Wonderful Waterfalls
We don’t tend to see waterfall charts very often, but we really like them so we had to include it.
This chart is really clean and simple, which we love. It’s so easy to read, but still provides a lot of visual interest with the background gradient and the beautiful combo of coral and teal. It doesn’t pop out at first, but the designer actually used two different tones of coral and teal, the lighter for the bar and the darker for the data point next to it. This is so smart, because the data point is in white, and the darker the background is the more the white will pop out. It also keeps it from becoming too boring by having only two colors.
The data points are also really easy to scan. The flow so naturally that your eye can easily move from the top to the bottom and get a quick clear picture of what the chart is showing. Finally, the grid lines make it easy to place each chart with the information it’s representing. The grid lines almost blend in, so they’re subtle and don’t detract from the chart, but they’re still visible if needed.
Well, that’s our list! We see so many PowerPoint presentations filled with charts that suck that we just had to put together some examples chart inspiration to point out what’s possible with charts.
Our rules of thumb: get creative, use complementary colors, think about what you want to stand out, and above all, don’t sacrifice clarity for creativity.
Do you have any favorite tricks for displaying your information in a cool and creative chart? Did any of these inspire you? We’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions! Shout out to us in the comments below.