How To Make Better Pie Charts in 5 Easy Steps

pie chart illustration on laptop screen

Did you know that 65% of people are visual learners?

If you're giving a presentation, chances are that the majority of your audience learns best through visual aids. One of the best ways to communicate data visually is to create a pie chart.

Not all pie charts are created equal, however. Some designs can be almost impossible to understand. The key lies in using the right pie chart creator—and using it well.

Read on for 5 expert tips on creating a compelling, easy-to-understand pie chart.

1. Use Fewer Sections

When you make a pie chart, the first rule is not to include too many sections. You might be able to cut an actual pie into 12 slices, but doing so on a pie chart will only look sloppy and confusing.

If you have too many skinny slices that are hard (or impossible) to read, whatever you're trying to convey will get lost. Aim for no more than 4-5 slices in any pie chart, and add your labels outside of the chart.

What if you have more than 4-5 pieces of data to share? You might be better off with a bar graph or a stacked bar chart.

2. Start at 12 O'Clock

Everyone is used to looking at a clock to tell time, so make it easy for your audience to know where to "start" on your pie chart.

Place the biggest slice of your pie at the top, beginning in the 12 o'clock position. Place the next-largest slice clockwise below it, and go around until you've got the smallest section back at the top.

It's logical, it's natural, and everyone will understand. Save your artistic endeavors for a different project.

3. Don't Compare Pie Charts

One pie chart can be a lot of information to absorb.

The quickest way to overwhelm your audience is to throw multiple pie charts at them at the same time. A row of pie charts side-by-side or a rapid-fire presentation will leave your audience scratching their heads.

If you have many different sets of data to present, consider using bar graphs instead. Pie charts are powerful visual tools, but they're best used individually and sparingly.

4. Avoid 3-D Models

Some pie chart generators offer the option of a 3-D model for your chart.

The problem with this is it can turn a simple chart into a deceptive trick for the eye. The 3-dimensional slices will appear much larger than the "flat" slices, which could inadvertently skew your data.

Your best bet is to stick with an old-fashioned, one-dimensional pie chart.

5. Use Colors Wisely

It might be tempting to liven up your presentation with a rainbow-colored pie chart. The problem is it could become too lively and distract your audience from your message.

Make your most important value (usually the largest slice) stand out with a bold color. Then make your smaller slices different shades of that color.

This will make your pie chart pleasing to the eye, not overwhelming for your viewers.

Ready to Create Some Stellar Pie Charts?

People's opinions vary on pie charts, but there's no reason you can't use them effectively in your next presentation.

Before preparing, refer back to this list of tips. Start your pie chart at 12 o'clock, use only a few sections, and opt for color shades instead of a rainbow of colors. It's also best to avoid 3-D pie charts and using more than one pie chart to compare data.

Now that you know how to make a pie chart, what's next? Check out our other recent lifestyle posts for more great information.


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