Sample Charts Using Axis Breaks, CAGRS, Data Rows, Data Columns and Special Characters

5 Ways to Enhance Your Charts

Mekko Graphics is loaded with features to help you make better charts in both PowerPoint and Excel. Here are 5 great ways to enhance your charts using some of our favorites.

1. Axis Break

What is it?

An axis break is a disruption in the continuity of values on either the y or x axis on a chart. It is also known as a scale break or graph break and is shown on the chart as a wavy line or diagonal line on the axis and on the bars plotted on that axis.

When should I use an axis break?

Insert an axis break when you want to focus attention on changes rather than absolute totals or when you want to manage outliers in your charts.

In this cascade chart (also known as a waterfall chart), a y axis break allows you to focus attention on the components of change instead of the total bars. Without the axis break, the middle 3 bars would be very small.

You can also insert an axis break when you have outliers or extreme values in your data. In this bubble chart, New York has significantly higher real estate costs, so an X axis break allows you to keep it on the chart while still allowing plenty of space for the other cities.

Bubble chart of real estate costs in U.S. cities

How do I add an axis break using Mekko Graphics?

To add an axis break, select the axis (Y, 2Y or X) you want to break with your mouse. Then, right click on the axis and choose Insert Axis Break from the floating menu. To format an axis break, click on the break line. Drag the yellow lines up or down to resize the break.  Change the style of your axis break (wavy or diagonal line) by choosing one of the icons in the floating menu.

Watch this video to learn more about how to insert and format axis breaks.

2. CAGR Growth Line and CAGR Column

What are they?

A CAGR or Compound Annual Growth Line is a line added to a bar chart to show the change between 2 time periods. A CAGR column is a data column on a chart that displays the Compound Annual Growth Rate for each series.

When should I use a CAGR Growth Line and/or CAGR Column(s)?

Use a CAGR growth line when you want to focus attention on the total change over time or when you only have one series. Add both a growth line and a CAGR column when you want to compare overall growth to the growth by series. You can use multiple CAGR columns if you want to highlight changes over different time periods in your data.

In this bar chart example, you can see that the Online Services and Basic Cable series are growing faster than the total CAGR while Broadcast and Pay Cable are growing more slowly.

How do I add CAGRS using Mekko Graphics?

To insert a CAGR growth line, choose Insert from the Mekko Graphics ribbon and select Growth Line. This will add an absolute growth line to your chart. Right click on the growth line or its label and choose Format Growth line from the menu. The Format Growth Line task pane will appear on the right side of your chart. Choose CAGR under Calculation to change the growth line from Absolute to CAGR. Note, the CAGR calculation will be done automatically based on your chart data.

Add a CAGR column to your chart in the chart data sheet. First, add the date range as the column header (e.g. 2010-2017). Mekko Graphics will automatically add the text CAGR to this label when you make this a CAGR column. Then, add the CAGR formula (=CAGR(first column, last column, # of years) for the first series in the data sheet. Note that the number of years is calculated as the ending year minus the beginning year (2017-2010=7 years in this example). Drag this formula down to the remaining series in your data sheet. Then, move your mouse to the column header (2010-2017) and right click. Under Show Bar in the floating menu, select Bar as CAGR column.

Watch this video to learn more about using CAGRs in your charts.

3. Data Rows

What are they?

Data rows are shown below your chart and contain either values or text that are automatically aligned with the chart. It is much easier to add the data or text to the chart data sheet than it would be to use individual text boxes or a table below the chart in PowerPoint.

When should I use data rows?

Add data rows to your chart to reinforce the main message of your chart or to add supplementary information to the bars that will expand the audience’s understanding. Be selective about what you put in a data row. Ask yourself if it adds to the chart or just adds clutter to the slide.

It is a best practice to use a data row on a bar mekko chart to show the data that determines bar width. In this example, the first data row, Assets Under Management, is the driver of bar width. The second data row, Endowment Chief's Tenure, is on the chart to help the audience compare the investment results (bar height) to the investor's tenure for each of the Ivy League schools. The second data row is on the slide to address what is a likely follow-up question and it facilitates a discussion about returns and tenure without moving to a new slide.

In the cascade chart example below, the data rows are used as a table below the chart to show which components from the iPhone SE were used in other iPhone models. These data rows help reinforce the message of the chart which is that the re-use of components helped keep the cost down.

How do I add data rows using Mekko Graphics?

Add the data or text you want to use in a data row into the chart data sheet. Then, right click on the row header. Under Show Series in the floating menu, select Series as Data Row and de-select Show Series on Chart. You can also do this by selecting Bars and Series from the Mekko Graphics ribbon. You will see all of the series on the chart under the Series tab and you can select the check box under the data column for 1 or more series.

Watch this video to learn more about how to use data rows in your charts.

4. Data Columns

What are they?

Data columns are shown on the side of your chart and contain either values or text that are automatically aligned with the chart. They appear by default on the right side of your chart, but you can also drag them so they appear on the left.

When should I use data columns?

Like data rows, data columns help to reinforce the main message of your chart or allow you to add more information about the series to guide your conversation about the chart.

In this bar chart example, the data columns shown the absolute and % difference between the costs shown in the bars for each series. Using the data columns helps guide the audience to the ingredients that are significantly cheaper at Walmart vs. Whole Foods.

 

In the marimekko chart shown below, the data columns are used as a table to summarize values for the series shown in the legend (the sum of the rows) while the data row is used to summarize the bar totals. The data row highlights that Asia is 40% of the total airplane demand. The data columns make it easier to understand the airplane mix by showing that single aisle planes are more than half of total demand.

How do I add data columns using Mekko Graphics?

Add the data or text you want to use in a data column or columns into the chart data sheet. Then, right click on the column header. Under Show Bars in the floating menu, select Bars as Data Column and de-select Show Bar on Chart. You can also do this by selecting Bars and Series from the Mekko Graphics ribbon. You will see the bars on the chart under the Bars tab and you can select the check box under the data column for 1 or more bars.

Watch this video to learn more about how to use data columns in your charts.

5. Special Characters

What are they?

Special characters are characters that cannot be found on your keyboard like currency symbols, mathematical symbols, shapes and emoji.

When should I use Special Characters?

Use Special Characters in chart labels, data rows or data columns when they make it easier for your audience to understand the message of your chart. In this horizontal bar chart, the red and green triangles in the data column on the left help the audience understand which cities have higher and lower Starbuck's latte cost relative to the benchmark cost in New York City.

Here's another example of a Special Character in a data column. In this chart, the small circle character is used and then recolored (gold, silver and bronze) to summarize the 2018 Winter Olympic medal performance for each country. Using the Special Character as the column header looks nice and it saves space as compared to the text "Gold, Silver and Bronze".

How do I use Special Characters in Mekko Graphics?

Insert a Special Character into your chart data sheet in the row header, column header or in an individual cell as text. You can use the Unicode value for the character or use the Character Map application in Windows to copy the character and paste it into a cell. You will find the Character Map app under Windows Accessories. Once the Special Character is on your chart, right click on it (use Ctrl click to multi-select characters) to change its color.