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6 Alternatives to Pie Charts

Inspired By Song

That poor pie chart. Always getting picked on by visualization studs. Tufte even called them dumb! That might be the worst thing you can say about a chart. While it’s true that pie charts may not be the best way to visualize data (something about the angles being too hard to judge accurately)… if you are going to pick on the pie, then you better come up with some better alternatives! So… below are 6 alternatives to pie charts inspired by some popular tunes.

Skinny Love: Bon Iver
Staying true to the "roundness" of the pie, using the arc rather than the full pie wedge avoids the harsh angles that make it difficult to judge values. Now, I realize judging arcs may still have some challenges, but hey at least its not your typical pie. Plus, you can add a little emphasis and call out the data point that fuels your headline.

Wheel(s) In the Sky : Journey
Can’t shake your love for circles? Try using a bubble chart for your values and simply align them across the page, or get crazy and stick them randomly next to each other for easier comparison. Add some motion effects and these wheels actually could keep on turning!

Around The World: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Staying true to our circular theme, you can whip up some radial bars, which are all the rage in the viz world. Now we might have to revisit our arc issue, but I find them solid for comparing a few values. When used simply, these are “sworn to entertain ya!”

Half Moon: Blind Pilot
If you are a half full kinda gal, these half moons are for you. Same idea as a bubble chart, just split in half. They work best when aligned horizontally and are great when you don’t have a lot of vertical room on a page.

Borderline: Madonna
Probably the most popular song, but the biggest stretch in terms of effectiveness. This one takes a little math, but any shape with a fixed (and known) perimeter can be used to represent data. Now before you purists jump on me, I realize the angles are not 100% accurate, but come one, I’m just spitballing here. No need to lose your mind! Follow the borderline.

Smokestack Lightnin: Howlin’ Wolf
"Shinin’ just like gold", this smokestack got tipped over. Of course, you could stand it upright just as easily. All depends on how you want to fill the space. I think this is the best of the bunch if your goal is to compare values. It’s really just a stacked bar rounded on the ends…. and it’s arguably the best tune for all you rock and roll fiends.

Happy Visualizing!

Ben (VisibleMR)

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