Bar charts are used extensively in marketing dashboards. They are my favourite way to visualize data since they are simple yet comprehensive and can be used for lots of types of data including trend over time and comparing categories.
Bar charts have to be used for their simplicity, yet most of the bar charts I see in reports and dashboards are cluttered with unnecessary colour and background distractions.
Below are some examples:
I am not remaking these particular charts. I found some interesting travel data from the National Travel and Tourism Office and using this data I am creating a few bar charts the way I like to use them – with fewer colours and no background clutter.
The example below is data from 1997. It shows the number of Americans that travelled to Europe, Mexico and Canada each month. Back then Europe was the most popular destination among Americans. I have highlighted the bars with red as a contrast colour and used grey for the other Mexico and Canada.
The next example is the same data for 2017, 20 years later. In 2017 the number of Americans travelling to Mexico has significantly increased from 20 years ago. Using the same color scheme, I highlighted Mexico numbers in red and used grey for Europe and Canada.
The outcome from comparing the two bar charts above is the significant increase in Americans holidaying in Mexico over 20 years period. So below is an example of combining the data from the charts above into a horizontal bar chart. Since the outcome is related to Mexico I highlighted the data with red in both parts of the charts and used grey for Europe and Canada.
When using bar charts be careful how you use colour. Use colour wisely to draw the audience attention where needed, remove all background elements and use an outcome title.