Creating a pleasing and useful chart is a subtle skill. Consider the following
three four charts, all of which are based on the same data: birth rates in the USA throughout most of the 20th century. In the middle of each chart you can see the baby boom.
This chart was made using one of Lotus 1-2-3’s default chart styles.
Size: 4,989 bytes.
1-2-3 allows every aspect of a chart to be tweaked, and I used this capability to make the chart more attractive.
Size: 17,910 bytes, 259% of the original chart size. The increase is primarily due to the gradient fill. It would be only 6,370 bytes (128% of the original chart size) with a uniform color fill.
This redesign was inspired by Edward Tufte’s Envisioning Information.
Size: 3,737 bytes, 75% of the original chart size.
The result is a chart that is well integrated with the surrounding text. It doesn’t announce that it is a graphic image, leaving the reader to focus on the actual data the chart displays.
Even this chart can be improved, though.
Tufte inveighs against “chart junk”, that is, everything in a chart that distracts from the data. Here’s an attempt to minimize chart junk:
Size: 3,946 bytes, 79% of the original chart size.
The natality data came from the Population Reference Bureau. Note that population data can be a political tool, so take this data with a grain of salt. However, other sources (primarily U.S. almanacs) corroborate most of this data.