Choosing the right visualization for your data

One of the questions we most often get asked is: "What’s the right visualization to use with my data?" The choice can feel overwhelming, but narrowing it down is straightforward once you know how.

The one question that will help you choose the right visualization

Ask yourself:  What is my data trying to communicate?

Do you want to show change over time? A list of rankings? Correlation between two variables? Once you know that, the options are clearer.

The Financial Times’s data visualization team has made a great visual vocabulary for this. We’ve used their categories to help you pick the right Flourish visualization.

1. Change over time

If you mainly want to communicate change over time, we recommend these. Click on the titles to make one now!

2. Size

Use these when you mainly want to communicate size comparisons, relative or absolute.

3. Parts of a whole

Use these to show how an entity breaks down into its components. If you’re mainly interested in the absolute size of the components, consider one of the size charts above instead.

4. Correlation

Use correlation visualizations when you want to show the relationship between two or more variables.

5. Ranking

Use where an item’s position in an ordered list is the most important thing you want to show.

6. Distribution

Show values in a dataset and how often they occur. The shape of a distribution is often useful to see.

7. Flows and relationships

Use these to show volume, movement or connections between two or more states.

8. Geospatial

Use when geospatial patterns in your data are more important than anything else.

9. Election visualizations

This category is specifically for people wanting to visualize the outcome of elections.

10. Flourish special: Individual users’ responses

Another Flourish special! If you have data about individual events or entities, use the Flourish survey visualization to let your users query your data however they wish.

Before picking any chart, it’s really worth studying the FT’s visual vocabulary - they even have a handy PDF you can print out and put on the wall!

You can choose from all these visualizations, and lots more, at the Flourish templates page.