Don’t Eat the Dashboard Pie Chart

A dashboard means graphs. And, of course, graphs mean pie charts. Therefore dashboard means pie charts, doesn’t it? We all know and love the simple pie chart. Or do we? Is the pie chart really the best graph to place on our dashboards?

Dashboarding veteran Stephen Few issues some great warnings against using dashboard pie charts in his latest newsletter. The feature article entitled Save the Pies for Dessert explains why we dashboarders should not eat the pie.

Take a look at this excerpt. There is a great analysis of why line graphs are better than pie charts when comparing relative quantities:

why pie charts are not as good as line graphs

Stephen Few’s stance against the pie chart is well known. In his course on graph design, he shocks his students by railing against the use. They are quite during the class but come to him during the break to defend their frequent use of pie chart graphics.

In the article, Few does state that the pie graph does have its strengths – primarily that the “part to the whole” message very clearly comes through. Fractions are easily understood by all.

However, the difficulties of pie charting rapidly make themselves clear once you start portraying the data relationships typically found in enterprise dashboards. The advantages of line charts, bar graphs and other graph forms make the pie chart basically unusable.

Take a look at the article for the details. I think you’ll agree with me that this article on pie charting is destined to be the definitive guide to whether us dashboard designers should eat the pie chart or not.

The article also explains the history of the pie chart. I’ve exerpted some of the early pie chart graphs over at The Dashboard Spy site.

Tags: Dashboard Metrics, Dashboard Graphs, Dashboard Pie Chart, History of the Pie Chart, Pie Chart vs. Line Graph

2 thoughts on “Don’t Eat the Dashboard Pie Chart

  1. Pingback: The Square Pie Chart

  2. Pingback: More on the Pie Chart

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