Introduction to making charts with datawrapper

Chris Knox,

18 September, 2023


Datawrapper is

widely used by journalists
, and was created by journalists, to

Enrich your stories with charts, maps, and tables.

  • It’s
    (there is a paid plan but it targets larger organisations)
  • It provides well
    designed and sensible
    defaults making it easy to create a good-looking chart
  • Charts will
    continue online
    if you close your account
  • Fantastic blog
    - well worth reading to get you started thinking about what makes a good chart

Datawrapper has been seen in the wild in the New Zealand Herald, Stuff, RNZ, Newsroom, and The Spinoff. So it’s a useful skill to have in the New Zealand market.

(Yes I know these examples are slightly misleading - exactly why is left as an exercise for the reader)

Sidebar: Flourish

Many New Zealand news organisation use Datawrapper. But

is also popular. e.g

Flourish and Datawrapper are very similar tools. Datawrapper is focused on static charts, Flourish provides more interactive options.

What is a chart?

  • Or what makes something a
    as opposed to a

What is a chart?

A chart (sometimes known as a graph) is a graphical representation for data visualization, in which “the data is represented by symbols, such as bars in a bar chart, lines in a line chart, or slices in a pie chart”.

Why use charts?

  • Context
  • Clarity
  • Correctness - reveal thing’s that are hidden by summary statistics


  • Company A has 10 employees. Each employee earns $100,000 per year. What is the average salary?

  • Company B has 10 employees. 9 employees earn $10,000 per year. 1 employee earns $910,000 per year. What is the average salary?

  • Company A has a good year and applies an average salary increase of 10% - everyone now earns $110,000.

  • Company B has a good year and applies an average salary increase of 10% - 9 people still earn $10,000 and 1 person earns $1,010,000.

Digressions — Why?

All summary statistics hide things

The mean and standard deviation are the same for each of these graphs

Chart choice

  • Different charts will highlight different aspects of your data more effectively.
  • Choose the chart that shows the aspect of the data that you are interested in
  • Line and Bar charts are often a safe choice
  • Take care with maps and pie charts

FT Visual Vocabulary

Bad or deceiving charts

  • Charts and graphs can be used to deceive
    • Don’t do this.

The best way to get a sense for bad charts is to peruse or /r/dataisugly. There is also a good writeup here

The most common bad things are:

  • Incorrect, missing, or misleading labels
  • Inconsistenct scales
  • Truncating scales
  • Comparing things that shouldn’t be
  • Too many things

A few rules

  • Barcharts always start at 0
  • Line charts don’t need to start at 0, but always ask yourself if the range you select is going to make an insignificant change look important
  • Only use pie charts for
    parts of a whole
    and only when there are less than 5 categories
  • Avoid maps for showing quantities


  • Locator maps
  • Graph company A and B from above
  • Recreate a chart from Figure.NZ
    • Add /data.csv to a url
  • Titles, captions, and alt-text
  • Annotations