December 22, 2009

Stupid Chart Tricks

One thing Mckinsey does well is charts (you can subscribe to their Chart Focus newsletter). In fact, they wrote the book on it (check out the book, Say It with Charts).

But how do you make charts like these from McKinsey ...

... when you don’t have a graphic design professional at your fingertips (or on your payroll)?

One method is to use Microsoft Office Drawing tools or a similar vector graphics package. The pros here are that you get total control over visual effects for every line, bar, pie slice et cetera. And you can make them data driven, sort of, by using the shape position and size parameters to scale everything correctly. The cons, of course, are that it’s not very easy to incorporate changes in data. Forget just plugging in new data tables and getting the charts redrawn.

A second way: you can struggle with Excel or Microsoft Chart objects in Office. But even with SmartArt you are limited with design and layout options.

I recommend a program called SmartDraw. Download it here.

Still, you need to know how to coax SmartDraw into making a chart like the one above.

Here’s the Chart Focus visual reproduced using SmartDraw.

The “Initiatives” textbox is left as an exercise for the reader!

For a detailed tutorial, read Reproducing the Chart.

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