Microsoft Office Tutorials and References
In Depth Information
Understanding the Shortcomings of Stacked Column Charts
12. To present your charts in color, change the color of text in the primary vertical axis to
match the color of the monthly bars. To change the color, click the numbers to select
them. Use the Font Color drop-down on the Home tab to select a color such as blue.
This color cue helps the reader realize that the blue left axis corresponds to the blue
The resulting chart is shown at the bottom of Figure 3.32. The chart illustrates both the
monthly trend of each month’s sales and the progress toward a final YTD revenue number.
Understanding the Shortcomings of Stacked Column Charts
In a stacked column chart, Series 2 is plotted directly on top of Series 1. Series 3 is plotted
on top of Series 2, and so on. The problem with this type of chart is that the reader can’t
tell whether the total is increasing or decreasing. The reader might not also be able to tell
if Series 1 is increasing or decreasing. However, because all the other series have differing
start periods, it is nearly impossible to tell whether sales in Series 2, 3, or 4 are increasing
or decreasing. For example, in the top chart in Figure 3.33, it is nearly impossible for the
reader to tell which regions are responsible for the increase from 2004 to 2009.
Stacked column charts are appropriate when the message of the chart is about the first
series. In the lower chart in Figure 3.33, the message is that the acquisition of a new
product line saved the company. If this new product line had not grown quickly, the company
would have had to rely on aging product lines that were losing money. Because this message
is about the sales of the new product line, you can plot this as the first series so the reader
of the chart can see the impact from that series.
Using a Stacked Column Chart to Compare Current Sales to Prior-Year Sales
The chart in Figure 3.34 uses a combination of a stacked column chart and a line chart.
The stacked column chart shows this year’s sales, broken out into same-store sales and
new-store sales. In this case, the same-store sales are plotted as the first series in white. The
new-store sales are the focus and are plotted in black.
The third series, which is plotted as a dotted line chart, shows the prior-year sales. While
the total height of the column is greater than last year’s sales, there is some underlying
problem in the old stores. In many cases, the height of the white column does not exceed
the height of the dotted line, indicating that sales at same store are down.
The process of creating this combination chart involves a few steps during which the chart
looks completely wrong. During those steps, overlook the chart and keep progressing
through the steps, as follows:
1. Set up your data with months in Column A, old-store sales for this year in Column B,
new-store sales for this year in Column C, and last year’s sales in Column D.
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