10 Essential Types of Graphs and When to Use Them (2024)

From stock market prices to sports statistics, numbers and statistics are all around you.

However, numerical data alone is merely a combination of figures and doesn’t tell a story. The most meaningful data and/or data analysis in the world is useless if it’s not communicated correctly.

In her book Storytelling with Data, Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic writes:

“Effective data visualization can mean the difference between success and failure when it comes to communicating the findings of your study, raising money for your nonprofit, presenting to your board, or simply getting your point across to your audience.”

Identifying the relationship between your data set or data points and telling the story behind the numbers will also encourage your audience to gain actionable insights from your presentation.

How do you do this?

You visualize data points through charts and different types of graphs.

The good news is you don’t need to have a PhD in statistics to make different types of graphs and charts.This guide on the most common types of graphs and charts is for you.

Keep reading if you’re a beginner with no data visualization background but want to help your audience get the most out of your numerical data points, both in-person and via a web conference. You’ll also discover data visualization best practices, advice from experts in the craft, and examples of well-thought-out charts and graphs below!

Most Common Types of Charts and Graphs to Communicate Data Points With Impact

Whether you’re about to create a collection of business graphs or make a chart in your infographic, the most common types of charts and graphs below are good starting points for your data visualization needs.

  1. Bar chart
  2. Line graph
  3. Area graph
  4. Scatter plot
  5. Pie chart
  6. Pictograph
  7. Column chart
  8. Bubble chart
  9. Gauge chart
  10. Stacked Venn

1. Bar chart

A bar chart, also known as a horizontal column chart, is popular for a reason — it’s easy on the eyes and quickly visualizes data sets. With bar charts, you can quickly identify which bar is the highest or the lowest, including the incremental differences between bars.

10 Essential Types of Graphs and When to Use Them (1)

When to use bar charts

  • If you have more than 10 items or categories to compare.
  • If your category labels or names are long.

Best practices for bar charts

  • Focus on one color for a bar chart. Accent colors are ideal if you want to highlight a significant data point.
  • Bars should be wider than the white space between bars.
  • Write labels horizontally (not vertically) for better readability in your bar chart.
  • Order categories alphabetically or by value to ensure consistency across your bar chart.

Pro-tip for bar charts from Jessica Witt of the Witt Perception Lab, a lab that focuses on information visualization and action-specific perception:

Bar charts must always have a zero baseline (y-axis value at zero) to ensure consistency.”

Customize your bar graph with Piktochart’s bar graph maker. Create your free Piktochart account.

2. Line chart

Not to be confused with line graphs, you can use a line chart to plot continuous data or data with infinite values.For example, the line chart below highlights the increase in keyword searches for “remote work” across the US from February 1, 2020, to March 22, 2020.

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When to use line charts

  • Compare and present lots of data at once.
  • Show trends or progress over time.
  • Highlight deceleration.
  • Present forecast data and share uncertainty in a single line chart.

Best practices for line charts

  • Use solid lines only because dotted or dashed lines are distracting.
  • Ensure that points are ordered consistently.
  • Label lines directly and avoid using legends in a line chart.
  • Don’t chart more than four lines to avoid visual distractions.
  • Zero baseline is not required, but it is recommended for a line chart.

Pro-tip for line charts from Mike Cisneros, an award-winning data visualizer:

“The range from your smallest value to your largest values should take up about 70 to 80 percent of your graph’s available vertical space.”

3. Area graph

An area graph is like a line chart as it also shows changes over time. One difference with these types of graphs is that area graphs can represent volume which is typically filled with color.

The area graph example by the BBC below shows a simple comparison of two data sets over a period of time.

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When to use area graphs

  • Display how values or multiple values develop over time.
  • Highlight the magnitude of a change.
  • Show large differences between values.

Best practices for these types of graphs

  • Don’t display more than four categories on these types of graphs.
  • Use transparent colors to avoid obscuring data in the background on these types of graphs.
  • Add annotations and explanations to these types of graphs.
  • Group tiny values together into one bigger value to prevent clutter on these types of graphs.

Pro-tip for area graphs from Lisa Charlotte Rost at Datawrapper on these types of graphs:

“Bring the most important value to the bottom of the chart and use color to make it stand out. Your readers can compare values easier with each other if they have the same baseline.”

4. Scatter plot

A scatter plot or a scatter chart helps show the relationship between items based on two different variables and data sets. Dots (or plot data) are plotted in an x-y coordinate system. In some scatter plots, a trend line is added (like in the example below) to a scatter plot.

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When to use a scatter plot

  • Show relationships between two variables.
  • You have two variables of data that complement each other.

Best practices for scatter plots

  • Start the y-axis value at zero to represent data accurately.
  • Plot additional data variables by changing dot sizes and colors.
  • Highlight with color and annotations.

Pro-tip for scatter plots from Mike Yi of Chartio on incorporating data visualization:

“Add a trend line to your scatter plot if you want to signal how strong the relationship between the two variables is, and if there are any unusual points that are affecting the computation of the trend line.”

5. Pie chart

Pie charts highlight data and statistics in pie-slice format. A pie chart represents numbers in percentages, and the total sum of all pies should equal 100 percent. When considering charts and graphs to employ to visualize data, pie charts are most impactful to your audience if you have a small data set.

10 Essential Types of Graphs and When to Use Them (5)

The donut pie chart, a variation of the pie chart, shows a design element or the total value of all the variables in the center.

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When to use pie charts

  • Illustrate part-to-whole comparisons — from business to classroom charts and graphs.
  • Identify the smallest and largest items within data sets.
  • Compare differences between multiple data pointsin a pie chart.

Best practices for using a pie chart

  • Limit categories to 3-5to ensure differentiation with the pie chart slices.
  • Double-check if the total value of the slices is equal to 100 percent.
  • Group similar slices together in one bigger slice to reduce clutter.
  • Make your most important slice stand out with color. Use shades of that specific color to highlight the rest of the slices.
  • Order slices thoughtfully. For example, you can place the largest section at the 12 o’clock position and go clockwise from there. Or place the second largest section at the 12 o’clock position and go counterclockwise from there.
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Pro-tip for pie charts from visual communication researcher Robert Kosara of Eager Eyes when considering charts and graphs:

“The pie chart is the wrong chart type to use as a default; the bar chart is a much better choice for that. Using a pie chart requires a lot more thought, care, and awareness of its limitations than most other charts.”

Customize your charts and graphs with Piktochart’s pie chart maker. Create your free Piktochart account.

6. Pictograph

Despite having ‘graph’ in the name, a pictograph doesn’t fall into types of graphs. Instead, a pictograph or a pictogram is a type of chart that uses pictures or icons to represent data. Each icon stands for a certain number of data sets, units or objects. For example, the infographic below contains a pictogram — each human icon represents 10 percent of CEOs.

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When to use pictographs

  • When your target audience prefers icons and pictures instead of data sets (to illustrate data).
  • Show the progress of a goal or project to show continuous data.
  • Highlight ratings to compare data.
  • Share survey resultsor data distribution.
  • Share level of proficiency or data sets.

Best practices for pictographs

  • Keep your icons and pictures simple to avoid distracting your audience with these types of graphs.
  • Do not use contrasting colors for your icons. Instead, use shades of one specific color.
  • Limit rows to five or ten for better readability on these types of graphs.

7. Column chart

A column chart is ideal for presenting chronological data. Also known as the vertical bar chart, this type of chart works if there are only a few dates to highlight your data set like in the example below.

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When to use column charts

  • Display comparison between categories or things (qualitative data).
  • Show the situation at one point in time using various data points.
  • Share relatively large differences in your numeric data values.

Best practices for column charts

  • Plot bars against a zero-value baseline.
  • Keep your bars rectangular and avoid 3D effects in your bars.
  • Order category levels consistently: from highest to lowest or lowest to highest.

Pro-tip for using column charts for a data set from Storytelling with Data:

“As you add more series of data, it becomes more difficult to focus on one (bar) at a time and pull out insight, so use multiple series bar charts with caution.”

8. Bubble chart

A bubble chart or a bubble plot is a lot like a scatter plot. However, bubble charts have one or two more visual elements (dot size and color) than a scatter plot to represent a third or fourth numeric variable.

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When to use a bubble chart

  • Show relationships between three or more numeric variables

Best practices for bubble charts

  • Scale bubble area by value, not diameter or radius.
  • Use circular shapes only in a bubble chart.
  • Label key points clearly in a bubble chart.

Pro-tip from Elizabeth Ricks, a data visualization instructor on creating a bubble chart:

“Include words for static bubble charts. It’s always a good idea to label your axes, provide clear chart titles, and annotate important data points with illuminating context. This is especially true when you are using a data-dense chart type like a bubble chart, and you aren’t standing next to it ready to explain away any confusion that viewers might have at first glance.”

9. Gauge chart

A gauge chart, also known as a dial chart, is an advanced type of chart that shows whether data values fit on a scale of acceptable (good) to not acceptable (bad). For example, you can create a gauge chart to display current sales figures and use your quarterly sales targets as thresholds.Not all charts are able to show data in this way.

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Gauge charts are particularly helpful where the expected value of the data is already known. This helps organizations create actionable reports and help employees understand where they stand in terms of metrics by looking at the chart.

When to use gauge charts

  • Share target metrics and display the percentage of the target goal that has been achieved for a certain period.
  • Highlight the progress of linear measurement.
  • Compare variables either by using multiple gauges or through multiple needles on the same gauge.

Best practices for gauge charts

  • Limit two to three colors for each gauge or avoid high-contrast color combinations.

10. Stacked Venn

A stacked Venn chart is used to showcase overlapping relationships between multiple data sets. This type of graph is a variation of the original Venn diagram, where overlapping shapes or circles illustrate the logical relationships between two or more variables.

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When to use the Stacked Venn

  • Emphasizing growth within an organization or business
  • Narrow down a broad topic

Best practice for Stacked Venn

  • Avoid high contrast color combinations to ensure readability.

What About the Other Types of Graphs and Charts?

There are plenty of other types of graphs and charts—line graphs, multiple line graphs, candlestick charts, Gantt charts, radar charts, stacked bar graphs, heat maps, waterfall charts, and the list goes on. They are almost always specific to a particular industry, and the charts and graphs we’ve listed should be enough to address your basic to intermediate data visualization needs to illustrate hierarchical data and beyond.

Choose Charts and Graphs That Are Easiest for Your Audience to Read and Understand

Thoughtfully designed charts and graphs are a result of knowing your audience well. When you understand your audience, you can communicate your data points more effectively.

Before you share your chart or graph, show it to a couple of colleagues or a small group of customers. Pay attention to their questions, their observations, and how they react to your chart or graph.

If you’re looking for a graph maker, create a free Piktochart account and sharpen your data visualization chops by making the right types of graphs and charts in minutes from multiple data sets and beyond.

10 Essential Types of Graphs and When to Use Them (2024)


What are types of graphs and when to use them? ›

You would use:
  • Bar graphs to show numbers that are independent of each other. ...
  • Pie charts to show you how a whole is divided into different parts. ...
  • Line graphs show you how numbers have changed over time. ...
  • Cartesian graphs have numbers on both axes, which therefore allow you to show how changes in one thing affect another.

What are the 5 important things that must be included on a graph? ›

Five principles of good graphs
  • Show the data clearly. Showing the data clearly includes ensuring the data points can be seen but also providing meaningful text on the graph itself. ...
  • Use simplicity in design of the graph. ...
  • Use alignment on a common scale. ...
  • Keep the visual encoding transparent. ...
  • Use standard forms that work.

What are the graphs how many types of graphs are there give example of each type of the graph? ›

Types of Graphs
  • Trivial Graph. A trivial graph is the graph which has only one vertex. ...
  • Simple Graph. A simple graph is the undirected graph with no parallel edges and no loops. ...
  • Directed Graph. ...
  • Disconnected Graph. ...
  • Cyclic Graph. ...
  • Acyclic Graph. ...
  • Bipartite Graph. ...
  • Complete Bipartite Graph.

What are the 16 types of charts? ›

NOTE: All the charts in the article are taken from the data visualization tool FineReport.
  • Column Chart. ...
  • Bar Chart. ...
  • Line Chart. ...
  • Area Chart. ...
  • Pie Chart. ...
  • Scatter Plot. ...
  • Bubble Chart. ...
  • Gauge.
Dec 1, 2019

When should graphs be used? ›

Graphs are a common method to visually illustrate relationships in the data. The purpose of a graph is to present data that are too numerous or complicated to be described adequately in the text and in less space. Do not, however, use graphs for small amounts of data that could be conveyed succinctly in a sentence.

What are the 3 commonly used graphs? ›

Three commonly used types of graphs are bar graphs, circle graphs, and line graphs. Each type of graph is suitable for showing a different type of data.

What are the 7 characteristics of a graph? ›

  • Domain, Range, Max, Min, Zero,
  • Y-Intercept, Interval of Increase,
  • and Interval of Decrease.

What are the 6 basic graphs? ›

Six Graphs of Common Functions

Linear function. Absolute value function. Square root function (Ch 5) Quadratic function.

What are the different types of graph representation explain? ›

A graph can be represented using 3 data structures- adjacency matrix, adjacency list and adjacency set. An adjacency matrix can be thought of as a table with rows and columns. The row labels and column labels represent the nodes of a graph.

Is the most widely and commonly used graph? ›

#1 Line Graphs

The most common, simplest, and classic type of chart graph is the line graph.

What are the ten types of chart? ›

Generally, the most popular types of charts are column charts, bar charts, pie charts, doughnut charts, line charts, area charts, scatter charts, spider (radar) charts, gauges, and comparison charts.

When should a line and bar graph be used? ›

Line charts are ideal for showing changing time series as well as trends and developments over time. Bar charts are good for comparing size, especially on small screens. They are a good alternative to column charts when the data are not time series, or axis labels are long.

Where are graphs used in everyday life? ›

Graphs are widely used in businesses. Visual presentation of data makes it easier to understand large amounts of data, trends, and relationships. The use of graphs in daily life also helps in making an analysis. For example, it provides structure in assessing performances, sales, and even deadlines.

What are common examples of graphs? ›

bar, pie, line chart) that show different types of graph trends and relationships between variables.

What are the four most common types of graphs? ›

The four basic graphs used in statistics include bar, line, histogram and pie charts.

What are 3 important parts of a graph? ›

The essential graph elements that should be included in almost every graph are… Clearly visible data points. Appropriate labels on each axis that include units. A trend line showing the mathematical model of the fit of your data, when appropriate.

What are the 4 basic rules for graphing? ›

Graphing Rules
  • Put a title at the top of the graph.
  • The vertical axis scale should be uniform and start at zero.
  • Use horizontal grid lines.
  • Each bar should be labeled by what it represents.
  • The horizontal axis label should describe the qualitative variable that the bar chart represents.

What are the 4 requirements of a graph? ›

Essential Elements of Good Graphs:
  • A title which describes the experiment. ...
  • The graph should fill the space allotted for the graph. ...
  • Each axis should be labeled with the quantity being measured and the units of measurement. ...
  • Each data point should be plotted in the proper position. ...
  • A line of best fit.

What are the 3 methods of graphing? ›

There are three basic methods of graphing linear functions. The first is by plotting points and then drawing a line through the points. The second is by using the y-intercept and slope. And the third is by using transformations of the identity function f(x)=x.

What is a graph Grade 7? ›

A pictorial representation of two sets of numerical data.

How many types of graph functions are there? ›

There are eight different types of functions that are commonly used, therefore eight different types of graphs of functions. These types of function graphs are linear, power, quadratic, polynomial, rational, exponential, logarithmic, and sinusoidal.

What are the types of graphs Class 8? ›

In NCERT solutions for Class 8 Introduction to Graphs, you will find different types of graphs like- Bar graph, Histogram, Pie graph ( or pie chart or a circle graph), Line graph, and Linear graph in the 3 exercises. These different type of graphs that you will use depends on your data and need.

What are the 8 basic function graphs? ›

The eight most commonly used graphs are linear, power, quadratic, polynomial, rational, exponential, logarithmic, and sinusoidal.

What are 6 commonly used graphs in business? ›

Basic Business Charts And Graphs

Points (scatter chart, radar chart) Bars (bar graph, stackled bar graph, column chart, waterfall chart) Lines (line graph, line chart, gantt chart, combination chart) Boxes (organizational chart, stacked area chart, marimekko chart, flow chart)

What are the types of graph structure? ›

A graph can be represented by one of three data structures: an adjacency matrix, an adjacency list, or an adjacency set.

What type of graph is best to be used or the data? ›

A line graph reveals trends or progress over time and you can use it to show many different categories of data. You should use it when you chart a continuous data set.

What is a histogram used for? ›

The histogram is a popular graphing tool. It is used to summarize discrete or continuous data that are measured on an interval scale. It is often used to illustrate the major features of the distribution of the data in a convenient form.

Why are graphs used everyday? ›

Graphs and charts are effective visual tools because they present information quickly and easily. It is not surprising then, that graphs are commonly used by print and electronic media. Sometimes, data can be better understood when presented by a graph than by a table because the graph can reveal a trend or comparison.

What are the 9 components of a chart? ›

Learn the elements of a chart
  • Chart title.
  • Plot area.
  • Legend.
  • Axis titles.
  • Axis labels.
  • Tick marks.
  • Gridlines.

What is chart list the common chart types? ›

So we'll start off with four basic chart types, one for each of these value-encoding means.
  • Bar chart. In a bar chart, values are indicated by the length of bars, each of which corresponds with a measured group. ...
  • Line chart. ...
  • Scatter plot. ...
  • Box plot. ...
  • Histogram. ...
  • Stacked bar chart. ...
  • Grouped bar chart. ...
  • Area chart.

What is the most useful chart? ›

Column Chart or Vertical Bar Chart

Column Chart is the most common and most ignored charts. column Chart is very powerful in presenting information between categorical data and continuous data. This chart very helpful in comparing various categories in data.

What are the five basic type of charts? ›

What are the five basic types of charts? Popular chart types contain Line Charts, Bar Charts, Sunburst Charts, Scatter Plots, and Sankey Charts. Charts are a great approach to display data insights.

What graph is best for 3 variables? ›

To graph three variables, the best choice is clustered bar chart. We can graph three variables using many programs such as Excel, power point etc. A line graph is a graphical representation of data that changes over a period of time. It consists of a horizontal x-axis and a vertical y-axis.

How many types of charts and graphs are there in Excel? ›

Types of Charts in Excel | 8 Types of Excel Charts You Must Know!

What are the different types of line graphs and their names? ›

They are:
  • Simple Line Graph: Only one line is plotted on the graph.
  • Multiple Line Graph: More than one line is plotted on the same set of axes. A multiple line graph can effectively compare similar items over the same period of time.
  • Compound Line Graph: If information can be subdivided into two or more types of data.

What is a chart list the most common types of charts in Excel? ›

Available chart types in Office
  • Column chart. Data that's arranged in columns or rows on a worksheet can be plotted in a column chart. ...
  • Line chart. ...
  • Bar chart. ...
  • Area chart. ...
  • Stock chart. ...
  • Surface chart. ...
  • Radar charts. ...
  • Treemap chart (Office 2016 and newer versions only)

What are the four types of graphs of a function? ›

These types of function graphs are linear, power, quadratic, polynomial, rational, exponential, logarithmic, and sinusoidal.

What type of graph is most popular to use? ›

Bar graphs are among the most popular types of graphs and charts in economics, statistics, marketing, and visualization in digital customer experience. They are commonly used to compare several categories of data. Each rectangular bar has length and height proportional to the values that they represent.

What are the 9 types of functions? ›

Types of Functions
  • One – one function (Injective function)
  • Many – one function.
  • Onto – function (Surjective Function)
  • Into – function.
  • Polynomial function.
  • Linear Function.
  • Identical Function.
  • Quadratic Function.
Dec 12, 2019

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