Spot the difference between these two graphs - why does it matter?

May 31, 2022
A banner for data viz quick tips with the Schilling Data Studio logo, an image of Jenn, and text saying spot the difference between these two graphs.

What do you notice about the two graphs below? Can you spot the differences?

Two bar graphs side by side show number of female and male penguins by three species - Adelie, Chinstrap, and Gentoo. One has the bars squished togeher and no margins. The other has margins so there is empty space around the graph and space between the bars.


In the left graph, there is no margin and the bars are very close together. In the right graph, a margin has been added and the bars have more space between them.

Empty space in a data visualization makes it easier to read, reduces the cognitive load for the audience, and helps focus the audience's attention on the important pieces. Notice how much nicer it is to look at the right-hand graph. With empty space added around and in the graph, it becomes easier to read and interpret.

Empty space improves the effectiveness of graphs. Using empty space in presentations and reports also helps improve effectiveness because it creates a hierarchy of information.

Let your data breath by adding empty space around it.

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