ArcGIS Business Analyst

Infographic design in Business Analyst: Best practices for tables and charts

Business Analyst infographics are powerful tools for analyzing and consolidating geographic information and—perhaps just as importantly—for presenting that information to others. In addition to running infographics, you can also build infographic templates in the following applications:

Infographic builders in Business Analyst products

Building infographics is more than juxtaposing variables, maps, and graphics. There is quite a bit of design involved if you want your template to look just right. Some of the most popular data visualizations used in infographics are tables and charts—great when you have lots of data but still want to economize space on the page. This article will walk through design choices related to tables and charts in infographics to offer best practices and considerations.

Tables

Tables make great use of real estate in an infographic: you can display a large quantity of data while keeping the format neat, organized, and legible. Here’s an example of a simple table with variables in the 2020 Census Summary infographic, detailing households by size in a census tract in southeastern Alaska:

Table displaying households by size data

There are a few types of tables you can add to infographics:

Whether you’re adding a simple table or designing your own custom creation, there are some best practices for making tables effective in infographics. Let’s dive in!

 

Size elements correctly

When it comes to making useful tables, the best advice is also the simplest: make them easy to read. It can be tempting to reduce the size of the text so you can squeeze tons of data into a table. Best practice is:

To access table styling capabilities, open the template in the infographic builder, then hover over the table and click Edit.

Clicking Edit on an infographic panel

On the right side of the pane, select the cells you want to modify. You can select an individual cell, or select multiple by clicking the first cell and then holding down Shift as you click the last cell. Once the cells are selected, click the Options button (the little wrench).

Selecting table cells

The styling pane opens, allowing you to set the text size and row height for the selected cell on the Style cell and Modify table tabs:

Setting text size
Setting row height

When you’re done adjusting the sizing, close out of the styling pane and save your work.

For more best practices regarding text, see Infographic design in Business Analyst: Best practices for text.

 

Justifying columns

There are no set rules about text justification, but the Business Analyst team often defers to the following guidelines:

There is some wiggle room here, and ultimately it’s up to the infographic author. But as an example of how much the text justification can affect readability of your table, here is the same chart—depicting languages spoken in a census tract in Arizona, from the At Risk Population infographic—with the variable name column centered versus justified left.

Column justification example

Row spacing

To make tables more readable, some infographic authors use a blank row to provide extra spacing. Avoid doing this! Blank rows can muck up interactive experiences and cause other issues. Instead, use cell styling to increase the bottom border of a row to a larger thickness to achieve the same effect.

For instance, the table below appears to have a nice blank row after the grey header row:

Table row with thick bottom border

But in reality, the infographic author has sneakily made the bottom border of the row 14-point thickness using a different color:

Increasing border thickness

Use styles to support theming

There are many advantages to using infographic themes—just read Infographic design in Business Analyst: Best practices for themes to learn why. One way to capitalize on your work designing a theme is to incorporate it into tables.

In the table styling pane, you can select a row and designate it a table header, for example:

Styling a table

You can also use this menu to designate titles, subtitles, and alternating rows.

For more inspiration about the possibilities of tables in infographics, be sure to check out this excellent article series on tabular infographics:

 

Charts

Business Analyst infographics offer a full array of chart options that will look familiar to users of other Esri products, like ArcGIS Dashboards and ArcGIS Insights. Here’s an example of a simple chart in the Childhood and Female Equity infographic, detailing computer and internet service access in a block group in Boise, Idaho:

Bar chart in an infographic

While the powerful chart-making tools in infographics are a wonderful thing, the myriad visualization options can also present design dilemmas.

 

Choose the right type of chart

Any time you’re working with data, choosing the right type of chart for visualizing it is crucial. Will you use a bar chart, line chart, or shape chart? Will you organize your data in series? For a useful primer on general chart-related decision making, read Which chart styles go with which mapping styles? And, for a hands-on tutorial in chart-making, fire up ArcGIS Instant Apps and check out Map and chart data.

When it comes to choosing chart styles for infographics, there are also some specific best practices that may be useful to bear in mind. The first thing to consider is the size of the panel within the template. If you’ve got plenty of room to work with, having a big bar chart might be the right call; if you’ve only got a tiny space open, a pie chart could be a better fit. Sometimes letting the shape of the space guide you is best.

Adding panel based on space in infographic

In the images above, the designer of the Childhood and Female Equity infographic uses a donut chart to make use of the square space available. The circular shape of the chart also provides contrast and visual interest.

You’ll also want to attend to the number of variables and series needed. For example, pie charts should only be used with up to five variables—and those variables should be a complete collection, since “pies” are generally interpreted as comprising 100 percent.

 

Label your axes

When visualizing data in bar charts or line charts, be sure that all axis labels are legible. While it may look cleaner to have a few nicely spaced data values on the x-axis, your chart viewers are going to struggle to interpret the data!

Can you spot the problems in the chart below?

Chart with visual errors

It doesn’t take a lot of work to improve the readability of this chart. I retitled the chart (which had taken its default title from the first variable I dragged into the chart builder); I added percentage signs to the y-axis; and I angled the labels on the x-axis so each one is readable (also added currency symbols and commas):

Chart with improved readability

 

Use design elements to assist with interpretation

Having used the Chart options pane to improve the legibility of the axes, I think I’ll spend a bit more time here to make my chart even better, by adding data labels and grid lines.

Chart options pane

After adding data labels that call out the value of each bar in the chart, as well as stripes that make comparisons between bars more visible, my 2023 Home Value chart looks a bit nicer, and can be interpreted as intended:

Improved chart

Feel free to explore all the chart options to customize your chart for your needs!

 

Best practices for series

Organizing your chart data into series is a smart way to make grouped information clear and legible. Series are used for showing information about different subgroups of main categories. A separate column or line represents each of the subgroups, which are displayed in different colors to distinguish them. Here’s an example of a chart with series in the Community Change Snapshot infographic, detailing owner- and renter-occupied housing units in a ZIP Code in Rochester, Minnesota:

Chart organized using series

In the image above, there are two series: Owner and Renter. These series describe the groups of variables on the x-axis of this stacked bar chart, creating color-coded subgroups, such as people who owned their homes in 2000, people who rented their homes in 2000, and so on.

One thing that’s easy to forget is that series are especially useful when interacting with a chart in table format. Charts can be enabled with the View table option for infographic viewers who want to see a different visualization:

View table option

When you’re creating a chart with multiple series, name the series intuitively to help with the table view.

For instance, this age pyramid chart includes two series, titled “Males” and “Females,” as seen in the Edit chart data pane:

Chart series in infographic builder

When the age pyramid is viewed as a table, those series names come in quite handy!

Chart series displayed in table view

Hopefully this article has helped you on your infographic-designing journey. The Business Analyst team is always excited to see what our users create to showcase their data in new and compelling ways.

 

Data attribution

This article contains or references data from the following sources:

About the author

Gemma is a writer at Esri, focusing on content for the ArcGIS Business Analyst team.

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