Are you sure you can recognize an Excel chart from miles away? I thought that too. Then I started playing with some data visualization historical milestones and now I’m not so sure. Trying to recreate these charts in Excel is a great way to improve your Excel skills and pay a humble tribute to the data visualization founding fathers (their charts always look better).
Here, the challenge is to recreate the original chart without cheating: a single chart (no overlapping charts), no shapes/clipart to display data, and, obviously, no Photoshop. Here is my rendition of Playfair’s prices of wheat and weekly wages:
Compare it to the original above. There are some details that I would like to improve (fonts, custom number formats) but it came out closer than I expected. Excel doesn’t like areas in front of columns, and that was the major challenge.
Playfair’s wheat prices chart was my second chart. I started with a simpler one, England exports:
And here is the original:
This shows that there is enough design flexibility in Excel to make charts that don’t look like Excel charts. You can create a chart that reflects you, your style, your sense of beauty, and how this data should be presented. Yes, it’s plain old Excel, but they don’t know it, do they?