These standards are intended to help you create readable and interpretable information visualizations.

Chart type.

  • Select the appropriate chart type for your data and audience.
  • Emphasize the data.


  • Use color sparingly. Use to highlight a data point.
  • Consider using grayscale shading over color.
  • Avoid thematic or decorative presentations.
  • Consider the cultural meanings of the colors you select and the impact that may have on your audience.
  • Ensure high contrast values. Test by converting to gray scale.

Descriptive text and labels.

  • Place label directly on the data.
  • Use a legend when the chart encodings are too small to label and/or if they would impede readability.
  • Add a description to guide readers in interpreting your visualization.

Attribution. Provide a citation to the data source.


  • Font face, size, direction, and color affect the legibility.
  • Do not set text at an angle or vertically.

Scales and proportions.

  • Keep the scale of the y-axis equal to or just above the highest value in the data set.
  • Zero point. Ensure a zero point x-axis for vertical bar charts.
  • Make sure pie charts add up to 1 or 100%.
  • Use natural increments for scales.

Data integrity.

  • Show your data accurately and avoid distortions.
  • Avoid fake perspectives, such as 3D.
  • Keep the lie factor equal to 1. Ensure that the size of effect shown in graphic equals the size of the effect of the data.

Chart Junk. 

  • Remove the grid (or use a light gray grid) and non-essential elements. 
  • Avoid using shadows.

Background. Stick to white or match the chart background.

Data density.

  • Consider how much information is shown in a graphic.
  • Use small multiples to show comparisons of multivariate data.

Data-ink ratio. Reduce non-data graphic elements (e.g. reduce the thickness of the bars in a bar chart).

Data richness. Accurate data and effective filtering of your data based on audience.


Cultural color (2015). The cultural meanings of color and color symbolism. Retrieved on July 27, 2015 from

Few, S. (2012). Show me the numbers: Designing tables and graphs to enlighten. Burlingame, CA: Analytics Press.

Tufte, E. (1990). Envisioning information. Cheshire: Graphics Press

Tufte, E. (1997), Visual explanations: Images and quantities, evidence and narrative. Cheshire: Graphic Press

Tufte, E. (2001). The Visual display of quantitative information. Cheshire: Graphics Press

Wong, D. (2011). The Wall Street Journal guide to information graphics: The dos and don’ts of presenting data, facts and figures. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

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