Data Visualization With Excel: Tips and Tricks to Level Up Your Excel Skills

February 26, 2024

Turning raw data into impactful visuals is crucial for any data analyst or business professional. With the right charts and dashboards, trends jump off the page, insights become obvious, and data-driven decisions happen faster. Excel offers powerful yet easy-to-use tools to take your data viz skills to the next level.

In this guide, you’ll learn techniques for visualizing data compellingly using real-world examples you can recreate in Excel. Follow the tips for data visualization Excel.

An Overview of Data Visualization Excel

Well-designed data visuals act as a storytelling mechanism, allowing viewers to quickly grasp trends, compare values, and extract insights from data. Charts condense complex datasets into easily digestible formats using visual encoding techniques like shape, size, color, and position.

Dashboards take this further by consolidating multiple visuals into a central location with interactive controls.

Creating Basic Charts in Excel

Excel provides various chart and graph options to visualize data, from simple column charts to hierarchical treemaps. The data you want to visualize must be organized cleanly in columns and rows for Excel to work its magic.

Here’s a quick example to create a basic column chart:

  • Select your dataset and click ‘Insert’ => Column Chart
  • Choose the chart style and layout
  • Customize titles, labels, colors, etc.
  • Update the source data to refresh chart

And that’s it! Within seconds, you can create basic data visuals to spot patterns. Play around with different chart types to find the best visual metaphor for your message.

Techniques for Data Visualization Excel

1. Pick the Right Chart Type

With so many options, choosing the right Excel chart type can be tricky based on your data structure and visual storytelling goal.

Column/Bar Charts: Best for comparisons across categories. Useful for time-series data. Columns and bars with long heights grab attention quickly. Add dual axes to combine columns and line graphs.

  • Pie Charts: Ideal for displaying part-to-whole relationships and percentages. Pie charts get a bad reputation but can effectively highlight the composition of a whole.
  • Line Charts: Excellent for showing trends and changes over continuous variables like time. Use multiple lines to compare two or more time series variables.
  • Dot Plot / Dot Chart: This simple yet underrated chart for frequency distribution analysis or comparison along 1 or 2 variables. Reveal correlations and outliers through scatter patterns.

2. Formatting and Customization

Make effective charts shine by judiciously applying custom formatting and design best practices.

Some ideas to enhance visual appeal and clarity:

● Reduce clutter by removing chart junk and gridlines.

● Focus on data by highlighting key points.

● Use colors intentionally to differentiate the series.

● Size and place visual elements for appropriate emphasis.

3. Conditional Formatting

Take your Excel data visuals to the next level with conditional formatting rules that dynamically highlight cells/data points based on values.

Some valuable ways to leverage conditional formatting for data visuals:

● Color code metrics based on thresholds

● Visually flag outliers or anomalies

● Display top/bottom ranks, and percentiles dynamically

4. PivotTables

The ultimate tool for data exploration in Excel. PivotTables make it stupidly simple to slice & dice data on various dimensions, revealing hidden insights.

Though not a graphical visual, pivot reports are interactive data visualization excel tools. Drag-drop fields to rearrange summary views, highlight specifics and filter on values without formulas or advanced skills.

5. PivotCharts

For beautiful graphical renderings combined with PivotTable-powered data interactivity, PivotCharts is the way to go.

Make dynamic dashboards by connecting slicers with PivotChart + PivotTable. Filter across multiple charts in one stroke.

6. Interactive Controls

Add interactive controls like scroll bars, timelines, and dropdowns to take your static charts and graphs to the next level. Allow viewers to instantly manipulate variables and see updated data viz results for deeper data exploration.

Some examples to try out:

● Add a scrollbar to a line chart to scroll across the timeline

● Use a drop-down to change the metric plotted on a column chart

● Insert a timeline slicer to filter data by date range

7. Combining Multiple Chart Types

Don’t be afraid to showcase different aspects of data trends using complementary chart types. Combination charts allow distinct metrics to be displayed through optimal visuals in a shared canvas.

For example, combine a stacked column chart with a line graph overlay to show category-wise time series decomposition. Options are endless once you start visualizing data in creative, multipronged ways.


The next level of data-driven decision-making requires moving from static reporting to interactive data visualization exploration in Excel. Apply design best practices and Excel’s versatile charting toolbox to uncover growth opportunities, improve efficiency and tell compelling data stories.


Urban Splatter

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