6. Area Charts

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Area charts offer a better alternative to line charts when you want to stack data entries for large datasets. Find out how to build them effectively in this lesson.

Lesson Notes

Area chart

- Use this chart if you want to stack large amounts of data
- A better alternative to a line chart in this situation
- Similar to the line chart, area charts require some axes formatting
- Move the legend to the top right-hand corner to give the chart more space

To change x-axis and y-axis settings

1 Select the desired axis
2 Right-click on desired axis
3 Select Format Axis
4 Perform changes to settings


In previous lessons, we used stacked bar charts to break revenue down by region and to show market share. However, these chart formats won't work when we have larger data sets, and a better option is the area chart.

Our sample data set for the area chart will be the daily revenue for a bar which sells beer, spirits, and soft drinks.

The data set will have three months of daily revenue from the first of April to the end of June. When we stack these three different types of revenue together, we'll be able to view the total revenue and how much of the total comes from each source. Let's start by creating a stacked area chart on a new slide. So, I'll go to Insert, Chart, and I'll select Stacked Area, and then I'll press OK.

For the stacked area chart, PowerPoint assumes that the X-axis will be a series of dates and provides us with two columns of data to get us going. Off camera, I'll now paste in the bar revenue split by beer, spirits, and soft drinks.

When I minimize the Excel sheet, you can see that we now have area chart that shows beer, spirit, and soft drink revenue for each day in the time period.

However, we've quite a bit of formatting to do before this chart is easily readable by our audience. Let's start by increasing the width. So, I'll drag on the left and drag on the right.

And we'll start by changing the number format on our Y-axis. So, I'll select the Y-axis, right click, and Format.

I'll select Number.

I'll remove the decimal places.

I'll add a comma separator, which I always recommend.

Press Add, and then close.

And this makes your Y-axis much more readable.

Now let's move on to the X-axis. I'd like to show an X-axis label for every two weeks. So, I'll right click and Format Axis.

I'll write 14, and select Days.

Then close to show the chart with my new labels.

I'll also change the number format of the labels.

So, I'll right click, Format Axis, and select Number.

And in the Format Code, I'll have the date, I'll write a space, and then three Ms which gives me the three letter abbreviation of the month.

I'll then click Add, and then close.

And this makes my X-axis labels much more readable.

My final change to this chart will be to move the legend above or below the chart area so that I give the chart area a greater width and make it easier to read.

So, I'll start by selecting the chart area and dragging it down.

I'll then select the legend and move it to the bottom, and then extend the legend and reduce its height.

I can now select the chart area and extend it which makes the chart a little easier to read. I can also extend its height to take up almost all of the slide.

I'll then finish the slide by giving it a title and giving the chart a title.

From the area chart, we can make a couple of data insights. Firstly, we can see that the bar is heavily dependent on weekend trade as large spikes in revenue occur during these times. Secondly, beer contributes the most revenue of the three types of drinks. And this share increases as the weather gets warmer in June.

In addition to the stacked area chart, we could have used a 100% stacked area chart which shows the share of total instead of absolute values. As an exercise, try converting the current chart to a 100% stacked area chart. I'll leave my answer in the after file below the video.