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Get Creative With Points  

Taking The Scatter Out Of Scatter Plots

I've heard it said that all charts are scatter plots, which makes sense when you think about it. Charts are really just shapes where distance and size matter in a data-specific way. Scatter plots show two relationships, so distance from the Y-axis and X-axis matter. But take away one of these points, and you essentially get a bar chart of some form.

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One of my favorite quotes is from visualization expert Jorge Camoes.

No matter what you call it, you can always reduce a chart to pairs of coordinates in a Cartesian plane... When you are fully aware of it two things become apparent: chart types are meaningless and you are free to do whatever you want (some restrictions apply). - Jorge Camoes

I love the idea of thinking outside the boundaries of chart types. Many people don't realize how flexible scatter plots can be when you start to play around with the X/Y-axis relationship. Plus, as much as this pains me to say, scatter plots are also easy to create using Excel charts and to drop into Powerpoint, so you do not need to be a design genius to start incorporating non-traditional scatter plot charts in research reports.

To get your juices flowing, we came up with 5 creative charts, that all use the scatter plot as the basis for the design. All made, you guessed it, (ugh) in Powerpoint. Don't believe me? You can tell by the bad resolution!

1. Guitar Hero

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Inspired by our favorite video game, setting the y-axis at regular intervals creates a visually clean lollipop like chart. Yes, this is essentially a bar chart, but isn't it so much more attractive?

2. Competitive Thermometer

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Set the regular intervals on the y-axis and you flip the chart vertically. Using 2 columns you can plot your main data point, alongside your secondary points for easy comparisons. These charts are great tucked in a tall, narrow spot.

3. Heat Continuum

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Play around with the background color of the chart and you can communicate levels of intensity in your data points. Also, plotting a couple points on the same y-axis allows you to compare multiple points on a line which is great for historical changes.

4. The Accordion

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Want the historical trends to take center stage? Stack your data points vertically by year and connect similar attributes to show the shift.

5. Tube Slide

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Need to add little more context for your data points? Perhaps an average - or a range of averages across a global study? Slide in a rectangle as a backdrop to provide your audience with a little deeper understanding in a relatively simple chart.