15 Types of Graphs and Charts (With Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 17 June 2021 | Published 25 August 2020

Updated 17 June 2021

Published 25 August 2020

Graphs and charts help people interpret large amounts of information by putting the data in easy-to-understand diagrams. It is important to know the various kinds so you can choose the best one to display your information, especially when making professional presentations. In this article, we will discuss different types of charts, graphs and their various uses.

What are graphs and charts?

Graphs and charts are visual representations that show relationships between different sets of data. People often use graphs and charts to communicate important points for buying trends, disease patterns, research finding, marketing results, revenue profits or attendance losses. Whether you use a graph or a chart depends on the sets of data to be displayed.

What’s the difference between graphs and charts?

All graphs are a type of chart, but not all charts are graphs. While many people use “graph” and “chart” interchangeably, they are different visuals.

Charts are tables, diagrams or pictures that organize large amounts of data clearly and concisely. Charts are used to interpret current data and make predictions. They are used when a simple table won’t adequately demonstrate relationships or patterns between data points. The variety of chart design allows the user to create quite complex and detailed data representation.

Graphs, however, focus on raw data and show trends over time. They are typically similar representations since data is only plotted along two dimensions. Graphs have x- and y-axis. The x-axis is the horizontal part of the graph and the y-axis is the vertical part.

Both graphs and charts need “legends,” labels or keys, to describe what the different variables. For example, a bar graph would label the horizontal and vertical axis. A pie chart would have a key to explain what each color represents in the chart.

How to choose between a graph or chart

There are many chart and graph formats to choose from. To select the right type, it helps to understand how each one is created and what type of information it is used for. Are you trying to highlight a trend? Do you want to show the overlap of data sets, or display your data as a percentage?

When you're clear about the specific type of data that each chart or graph can be used with, you'll be able to choose the one that best supports your point.

Types of graphs

You can choose from many types of graphs to display data, including:

1. Line graph

Line graphs show how related data changes over a specific period of time. It is the most common and simplest type of graph. One axis might display a value, while the other axis shows the timeline. Line graphs are useful for illustrating trends such as temperature changes during certain dates. Line graphs can show more than one line or data series, too. It's easy to compare trends when you represent them on the same graph.

For example, a line graph can show sales totals fluctuate throughout the years.

Related: Making Line Graphs: Definitions, Tips and Examples

2. Bar graph

Bar graphs, also known as “column charts,” offer a simple way to compare numeric values, including inventories, group sizes and financial predictions. Bar graphs can be either horizontal or vertical columns. One axis represents the category, while the other represents the value of each category. The height or length of each bar relates directly to its value. The higher or longer the bar, the greater the value. Marketing companies often use bar graphs to display ratings and survey responses.

For example, a carmaker may use a bar graph to compare sales of specific models over specific time periods.

There are three types of bar graphs:

  • Grouped bar graph

  • Stacked bar graph

  • Segmented bar graph

Read more: A Guide To Stacked Bar Charts

3. Pictograph

A pictograph uses pictures or symbols to display data instead of bars. Each picture represents a certain number of items. Pictographs can be useful when you want to display data in a highly visual presentation such as an infographic.

For example, you could use a picture of a box to display how many boxes a store sold over a period of a few months.

4. Histogram

A histogram is another type of bar graph that illustrates the distribution of numeric data across categories. People often use histograms to illustrate statistics. For example, a histogram might display how many people belong to a certain age range within a population. The height or length of each bar in the histogram shows how many people are in each category.

For example, a company wants to know how monthly salaries are distributed among its employees.

Types of histograms include:

  • Normal distribution

  • Bimodal distribution

  • Skewed distribution

  • Random distribution

  • Edge peak distribution

  • Comb distribution

Read more: A Guide To Histogram Graphs

5. Area graph

Area graphs show a change in one or more quantities over a certain period of time. They often help when displaying trends and patterns. Similar to a line graph, area graphs use dots connected by a line. However, an area graph involves coloring between the line and the horizontal axis. You can use several lines and colors between each one to show how multiple quantities add up to a whole.

For example, a retailer might use this method to display the profits of different stores over the same timeframe.

Read more: A Guide To Area Charts

6. Scatter plot

Scatter plots use dots to depict the relationship between two different variables. It can show the relationship between a person’s height and weight, for example. The process involves plotting one variable along the horizontal axis and the other variable along the vertical axis. The resulting scatter plot demonstrates how much one variable affects the other. If there is no correlation, the dots appear in random places on the graph. If there is a strong correlation, the dots are close together and form a line through the graph.

For example, a company wants to see if there is a correlation between the number of publications and salaries.

Types of scatter plots include:

  • Positive correlation

  • Negative correlation

  • No correlation

Read more: A Guide To Scatter Plots

Types of charts

There are nine common charts you can use to display information:

1. Flow chart

Flow charts help organize the steps, decisions or actions in a process from beginning to end. They often include more than one starting point or endpoint, displaying different paths you can take in a process to get from start to finish. People often use flow charts to depict complex situations or organizational structures. They use special shapes to illustrate different parts of the process, and they typically include a legend to explain what each shape means.

For example, a company may use a flow chart to provide service representatives with appropriate responses.

2. Pie chart

A pie chart presents the different parts of a whole and looks like a pie cut into slices. Since it shows percentage distribution, pieces are different sizes based on how much of the whole they represent. Each piece has a label to represent its value compared to the whole. If the pie has more than six sections, consider using a different chart style. For example, a company wants to show where its sales are made.

Read more: A Guide To Pie Charts

3. Gantt chart

Gantt charts illustrate project schedules. The horizontal axis represents the timeframe for the project in days, weeks, months or years. The chart displays each project task as a bar on the vertical axis. The length of the bar depends on the start and end date of the task, but sometimes there is also a vertical line for the current date.

For example, project managers use Gantt charts to monitor the progress and completion status of each task.

Read more: How To Make a Gantt Chart in 5 Minutes or Less

4. Waterfall chart

Waterfall charts reflect variance over time. They demonstrate both the positive and negative impact of different factors on an initial value, such as an opening balance. Waterfall charts are helpful when illustrating financial statements, analyzing profit and loss and comparing earnings. You might use this chart to highlight the budget vs. the amount spent. Positive and negative values usually follow a color code to show how the value increases or decreases due to a series of changes over time.

5. Gauge chart

Gauge charts display data as a reading on a dial. They show where a specific data point is within a minimum or maximum range. A needle depicts the value within a scale. Many people use gauge charts to illustrate speed, revenue goals and temperatures.

For example, a company may use a gauge chart to show customer reaction to a new product.

6. Funnel chart

Funnel charts illustrate how values progress through different stages. They are widest at the top and narrowest at the bottom. Funnel charts are especially helpful when tracking a sales process. They also work well to depict website traffic, including the number of visitors to a site, the pages viewed and downloads made. Order fulfillment is another common use for funnel charts as they can easily show the number of orders placed, canceled and delivered.

For example, a company may use a funnel chart to illustrate sales pipeline information.

Read more: A Guide To Funnel Charts

7. Bullet chart

A bullet chart can help you measure the performance of a specific goal or target. Some bullet charts, such as those that demonstrate profits, have high targets. Others have low targets, including those that display expenses. People often use bullet charts in dashboards to illustrate the progress of key performance indicators (KPIs). A bullet chart is similar to a bar graph and consists of three parts:

  • A line showing the target value

  • A center bar showing the actual value

  • Colored bars showing performance indicators

For example, a company wants to compare several data sets regarding sales and revenue.

Read more: A Guide To Bullet Charts

8. Radar chart

Radar charts are useful when you want to compare a group of variables to another group of the same variables. You can graph one group of variables or compare multiple groups of the same variables.

To use a radar chart, graph each variable on axes arranged equally around a central origination point. Gridlines connect the axes and make it easier to read the chart. When you connect each group of variables on the graph, the connections form a polygon.

If you want to compare more than one group, you identify each by a different colored polygon that overlays each other. A radar chart is sometimes called by several other names such as a “spider chart,” “polar chart,” “web chart” or “star plot.”

For example, a company wants to illustrate trainer ratings.

Read more: A Guide To Radar Charts

9. Bubble chart

A bubble chart is a type of data visualization that uses circles to represent the information you’ve gathered. Bubble charts effectively display data points with at least three variables. The location, size and color of each bubble reveals the relationships between different pieces of information. If you need to display data to account for multiple values or variables, a bubble chart may be the best option.

For example, a company wants to evaluate risk assessments for quality improvement opportunities.

Read more: A Guide To Bubble Charts

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