The last two visualizations we’ll look at are charts that help us see the change in a numeric column over time.
For this exercise, we’ll look at a dataset containing data on the total production (thousands of vehicles) for different types of vehicles over time (from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics). Here are the first few columns of this dataset:
Line charts plot points in the data connected with a line to visualize the trend. Multiple lines can be plotted on the same graph to compare trends between groups. For example, here is a line chart of the production numbers above:
It looks like most vehicle types increased production over these four years, but Vans stayed fairly constant in comparison to the rest.
Sparklines are a feature in Excel that places a trend line (like a mini line chart) next to each row of a table. For example, here is what the sparklines would look like for our vehicle production data:
Sparklines can be helpful when we want to see general trends for individual categories. In the line chart, the fluctuations in Van production weren’t visible, since they were so small compared to the fluctuations for cars. In the sparkline, we can see them much more clearly.
We’ve placed a slideshow illustrating both methods in the learning environment. When you’re ready to practice this yourself, move on to the next set of instructions!
When you’re ready to practice what you’ve learned, download and work through our exercise spreadsheet. A couple of important points to keep in mind:
- Unlike formulas and pivot tables, we can’t automatically assess your visualizations. We have placed solutions to each exercise within the same spreadsheet. Feel free to compare your work to ours if you get stuck or to check if your solution is correct. Your visualization may not look identical to ours and that’s okay!
- There are lots of options we haven’t covered — feel free to play around and see how different options work!
- You can always re-download the spreadsheet if you want to start fresh.
Once you’ve finished, think about the next question.
Question: How did the total production of the different vehicle types trend over the time period from 2010 to 2020?