How the Economist makes the best charts on the internet

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By Paul Moss

May 21, 2024

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Charts are essential tools for clear information sharing, especially when you want to present data in a way that’s easily understandable.

While many sources, such as the Wall Street Journal, Chartr, and various consulting firms, create high-quality charts, The Economist is particularly known for producing charts that are not only simple and well-designed but also highly effective in telling a story with data.

Let’s break down exactly why these charts are so good, and how you can follow these exact same techniques to build your own high-quality charts.

Keep It Simple

simple economist

The Economist makes great charts because they keep things simple and effective. They aim to ensure that anyone looking at their charts can quickly understand what’s being shown, whether it’s numbers or trends. They mostly use basic line and bar charts because these are easy for everyone to grasp. They also simplify every detail in the chart to make sure the information is clear and straightforward.

But their charts aren’t just about looks—they’re designed to make sure the main point is very clear to the viewer. To do this, they use bold, easy-to-read titles, simple color schemes, and clever methods to display data, all of which help to avoid overwhelming the reader.

Choosing the Right Chart

choose chart

Making data understandable is essential. The chart should align with the message you want to convey, serving as a strong starting point.

The Economist selects the chart type that best suits how data should be visualized. For comparisons, they use bar charts, while for showing changes over time, they prefer line charts.

Their approach demonstrates the importance of choosing the right format to effectively communicate the message. Bar charts are great for straightforward comparisons, and line charts are perfect for tracking changes over time.

It’s not just about the chart type; details like titles and colors are crucial to ensuring the message is clear. Choosing the right chart is a well-known best practice in effective communication, making your data speak volumes.

Highlighting Key Points

highlight economist

The Economist uses simple but effective techniques to draw attention to the most important information in their charts. Whether it’s using bold titles to grab your eye or strategic color choices to emphasize critical data, they make sure the key points stand out.

Take, for example, this chart on hospital emergency departments in England—by bolding the key message and using a distinct color, they make it clear and easy to read.

It’s all about directing the audience’s focus to the core message, ensuring it comes across loud and clear.

Staying Consistent

consistent economist 1

The charts on The Economist’s website and in their magazines have a consistent style, whether you’re online or flipping through a magazine. This uniformity makes it easier to understand the information without much effort.

You can immediately recognize a chart from The Economist because of its unique design. This consistency makes it simple for anyone to read and understand, regardless of their familiarity with numbers.

Final Words

The Economist’s charts are excellent because they’re simple and consistent, making them easy to understand. This uniformity helps everyone quickly grasp the information, setting a high standard for clear, accessible charts.

By using similar techniques in your presentations, you can make your message clearer and easier for your audience to understand, even if they aren’t data experts. Simplifying your visuals and maintaining consistency can enhance your presentations, helping you effectively convey your point. 


If you’re interested in learning more about how to build your own high-quality consulting-style PowerPoint slides, make sure you check out our advanced courses.

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