Area Chart

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An area chart combines the line chart and the bar chart to depict how the numerical values of one or more groups vary throughout the evolution of a second variable, often time. The inclusion of shade between lines and a baseline, as in a bar chart, distinguishes an area chart from a line chart.

What Is An Area Chart?

An area chart, often known as an area graph, is a graphical representation of quantitative data. It is built on a line chart. Colors, textures, and hatchings are widely used to accentuate the area between the axis and the line. An area chart is commonly used to compare two or more numbers. An area chart depicts the evolution of one or more quantities over time. It’s comparable to a line graph. Data points are plotted and then joined by line segments in both area charts and line graphs to represent the value of a quantity at various periods. However, area charts vary from line graphs in that the region between the x-axis and the line is filled in with color or shading.

When you want to display a pattern over time but aren’t concerned with providing exact values, area charts are an excellent alternative. It gives a sense of summation of the quantitative data.

EXAMPLE

This area chart depicts the number of active users for a fictitious web-based corporation calculated monthly. Values for each month may be calculated not only by the vertical position of the shape’s top, but also by the colored height between the baseline and the top. In this graph, we can observe that the number of active users nearly doubled between November 2019 and February 2020, and that the pace of user growth has grown with time.

History

The area chart, as well as the line, bar, and pie charts, are commonly attributed to William Playfair. His book The Commercial and Political Atlas, published in 1786, contained a number of time-series graphs, such as Interest on the National Debt from the Revolution and Chart of all the Imports and Exports to and from England from the Year 1700 to 1782, which are often referred to as the first area charts in history.

Features Of Area Chart

An area chart has five essential components: the chart title, key, label, scale, and chart area.

Title

An area chart’s title is often a concise description of the data shown on the area graph. It provides information about the type of data being displayed as well as the objective of the data analysis.

Labels

An area chart has two axes: the horizontal axis and the vertical axis. Each of these axes is labelled to provide more information about the data being shown on the chart. Labels provide more information about the data that was used to create the area chart.

Scale

An area chart’s scale is the annotation of the x and y axes that shows how each point on the graph is defined. It represents the quantity of data represented by each unit on the horizontal and vertical axes. As a result, an individual can readily read the area chart and utilize it to identify what the trend is at any given time.

Key

More than one category of data can be shown in an area chart. As a result, the region covered by each group on the graph is shaded with distinct colors in order to effectively visualize this data. This will aid in distinguishing the various groups shown on the graph. The secret, however, is what helps us comprehend what each hue represents.

Chart Area

The chart area may be viewed as the body of the graph in an area graph. It provides a complete description of the data under consideration, including each point on the data, the line segment formed by the data, and the area of the line segment.

The area or chart area is the portion of an area graph that answers any questions regarding the data that an individual may have. It aids in the interpretation of trends at a glance, drawing right inferences from the behavior of the chart area, and making sound future judgments.

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Needs Of An Area Chart

Add A Sense Of Volume To Data

Area charts are typically used to describe the sum of quantitative data (the dependent variable) (rather than individual data values). The region beneath the line aids in the visual representation of quantitative advancement through time.

To See Part-to-whole Relation Groups

The filling done between the line segments and the x-axis to emphasize the magnitude is a distinguishing element of an area chart. The area chart, when rendered with stacked data plots, is useful for a part-to-whole analysis of each category – members of any category may be summed on any common quantitative variable and the same can be stacked to illustrate the contribution of each member to the whole. If the y-axis is a percentage, the stacked area may be used to determine the trend of each group’s percentage share.

Analyzing Trend Of Magnitude Of A Quantitative Data

The filling between the line segments and the axis line aids in comprehending the magnitude, something the line chart does not provide. Because the entire region is shaded, this chart works best when plotting a modest number of data values.

Comparing Trend / Proportion Of Each Category

Area charts provide a clear and straightforward representation of the performance patterns of each group individually.

A quick check at the stacked area chart on the right above reveals that, while food product sales have been stable, non-food product sales have fluctuated significantly.

Business Uses

Area charts are useful for examining the expansion of a public company’s revenue reserves, program members of qualified subgroups by year, and patterns in mortality rates over time by primary causes of death.

Best Practices To Use An Area Chart

Include A Zero Baseline

While a line chart is not required to have a zero-baseline, the inclusion of shading implies that the heights of the colored sections will be utilized to compare the magnitude of the values in each group. As a result, just like a bar chart, there must be a zero-baseline against which the shading is performed. If the axis is severed, the actual ratio in group values will differ from what is suggested by the produced plot.

When we compare two series in an overlapping area chart with a change in the shading rule, we can make an exception to this rule. We may zoom the vertical axis boundaries into the impact of interest without a baseline if we limit the coloring to be between the lines rather than from both lines to a shared baseline. Shading now has a new meaning, with the color indicating which group has a higher value and the amount of color showing the magnitude of the difference.

Limit Number Of Series 

The more series we have, the more color choices will exist when they overlap. The fact that most colors are not identified with a specific group might make interpretation challenging. Even with only three series, this can be difficult to keep track of: three separate colors, three pairwise overlaps, and one color for each of the three groups overlapping totals seven colors.

Consider Order Of The Lines

While the overall structure of the plot will be the same regardless of the order in which the lines of the groups are plotted, reading the visualization can be aided by a smart choice of line order. A decent rule of thumb is to start with the biggest or most stable groups and work your way up to the most volatile or smallest groupings. It requires effort to read data for any individual group save the bottom-most, therefore it’s a good idea to prioritize that one.

Types Of Area Chart

Multiple Series Area Chart

The multi-series area chart is drawn with data values indicated as data points joined by line segments. Color is used to fill the space between the line segments and the x-axis/edges of other charts.

Area Chart With Scrolling

A scroll area chart is used to display the amount of change over time. Because of the scroll interactivity, the chart may display a high number of data points. The chart is created by plotting data values as data points and connecting them with line segments. Color is used to fill the space between the line segments and the y-axis. To browse across the chart, a horizontal scroll bar is presented at the bottom.

Spline Area Chart

A spline area chart is a particular type of area chart that may be used to depict data that requires curve-fitting. Data values, like the area chart, are shown as data points. However, instead of utilizing straight line segments to link the data points, this chart uses a fitted curve to do so. Color is used to fill the space between the curve and the x-axis.

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Spline Area Chart With Multiple Series

A multi-series spline area chart is a subset of the multi-series area chart that may be used to exhibit data for numerous types of data that need curve-fitting. Data values are represented as data points in the same way as they are in the multi-series area chart. However, instead of utilizing straight line segments to link the data points, this chart uses a fitted curve to do so. The color is used to fill the space between the curve and the x-axis.

Overlapping Area Chart

We begin with a basic line chart in an overlapping area chart. One point is plotted at each horizontal value for each group, with height reflecting the group’s value on the vertical axis variable; a line joins all of a group’s points from left to right. The shade in the area chart is added between each line to a zero baseline. Because the coloring for groups frequently overlaps to some amount, some transparency is added in the shading so that all of the groups’ lines may be viewed. Based on which group’s pure color is exposed, the shading serves to indicate which group has the most value.

Stacked Area Chart

Lines are plotted one at a time in the stacked area chart, with the height of the most recently plotted group acting as a shifting baseline. As a result, when all groups are added together, the fully-stacked height of the topmost line corresponds to the total.

A stacked area chart is used to track not just the overall value, but also how that total is broken down by group. By comparing the heights of each segment of the curve, we can gain a sense of how each subgroup compares to the others in terms of their contributions to the overall.

Percentage Stacked Area Chart

The percentage, or relative frequency, stacked area chart is a popular alternative for area charts. Rather than stacking the exact values of each group at each vertical slice, we stack their relative or percentage contribution to the total, ensuring that the overall height is always 100%. This chart style lacks information about the trend of absolute totals (and hence requires its own line chart), but it does assist to highlight the comparison of relative contributions between groups. As an added benefit, this chart style receives a second baseline across the top of the plot, which may be used to assess the contributions of specific groups.

3-D Area Chart

A 3-D Area Chart, as the name indicates, is an area chart that depicts the area segment of a collection of data in three dimensions. It is also known as a 3-D simple area chart, which is similar to a simple area chart. The 3-D area chart, on the other hand, contains three axes, namely the x, y, and z axes. In addition, as seen in the picture below, a key may not be required to comprehend a 3-D chart. Because of the labelling on the z-axis, this is the case.

Merits Of Area Chart

  • By covering the region between the line segment and the x-axis, it serves to emphasize the enormity of a data set.
  • It is aesthetically pleasing and easy to read, even at a look at times.
  • It provides a clear comparison of various dataset groups.
  • Labeling is simple.
  • By visually dividing each area part, you may highlight information.

Demerits Of Area Chart

Only Useful For Comparing Trends, Not Exact Values

It is difficult to read precise data values from an area chart. It is difficult to tell where a data plot begins and finishes in charts with overlapping data plots. While the overlapping data plots may be made understandable by altering the colors and transparency to acceptable levels, the alternatives for stacked data plots are much more restricted. When the data values are very widely apart, area charts might be difficult to understand.

Work Efficiently Only For Small Number Of Groups

When several categories are displayed on an area chart, it becomes difficult for the viewer to interpret the data. In a chart with overlapped data plots, the more categories there are, the more overlapping there is, and the visibility suffers as a result. The stacked area chart is less difficult to understand than the overlapping one. However, reading one with numerous categories requires far more work than reading one with only two categories. Instead of a pie chart, you may use a line chart for several categories.

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