Critique Then Re-create

In my first ever SWD challenge submission I experiment with using horizontal bar charts to show progress against targets.

Storytelling with Data

I’ve been a fan of Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic’s ideas around storytelling with data ever since I worked my way through her first book.

It brought together many concepts I’d been experimenting with whenever I shared my analysis with work colleagues. I found that having a framework around presenting data really helped me focus on the message Iā€™m trying to get across.


I’ve been meaning to submit a challenge in the storytelling with data community for a while now, but I finally got round to it this month! šŸŽ‰

The challenge was to critique and re-create the chart below which shows actual vs. target revenues by industry.


What do you like about the current visual?

Where are your eyes drawn first?

What elements are confusing or complicated?


When I first saw the line chart, my first thought was to change this to a classic vertical bar chart.

Then I remembered that Cole said in her book that horizontal bar charts would be her “go-to” chart type for categorical data because they are easy to read.

šŸ“Š Horizontal Bar Charts:

We usually start processing information from the top left.

On a horizontal bar chart this means we read the category names before looking at the actual data - so we already know what the bars represent.

The added bonus is that we don't have to label long category names diagonally as we would on a vertical bar chart.

I initially included all industries on the same chart, ordered by target revenue. But this made the chart look a little cluttered and it wasn’t easy to see which industries were doing well vs. target. This is why I decided to sort by the difference between actual and target revenue.

Splitting up industries which exceed the target and those which don’t, along with the colour coding helps focus the reader on the industries which need attention.

This is my submission: