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High=100, Low=1, Chart = WTF? - Oz du Soleil

If you make a lot of charts, here’s a too often unused feature in Excel: Logarithmic Scale.
Thanks to fellow Excel Badass Blogger Michael Rempel for this tip! In the video below, I take the tip further to include a secondary axis and and area graph.

Let’s jump right in …


There’s a wide range between your data points. You need to make a graph, but the wide range makes the small numbers invisible.

The examples in the table below would make for useless visuals if you place them in an out-of-the-can column, line or area graph.
Metric# of EntriesLowest ValueHighest Value
Population40 Cities1103.47M
Donations45 Donations$2$1,500
Product Weights 20 Products0.02 lbs370 lbs
February Walk-in Customers30 Salons5 visits209 visits
Q1 Sales Revenue40 Sales Reps$0$310,480

This graph shows donations and is useless for any meaningful analysis. Under $200, we’re in the WTF? zone. (This might be fine as a snapshot or very high level overview but that’s about all.)


magnifying glass


We can’t tell that Wally donated $2 and Cat donated $71. But let’s not pull out the magnifying glass.

In the chart below, we use a logarithmic scale and the chart adjusts, making the smaller numbers visible. There is a deeper explanation about logarithms, and Wikipedia can explain more than you want to know. For our purposes, we need to know that there is a solution for crazy graphs that have nearly invisible data.

What can we see now? Wally’s donation is much less than $10; in fact, very few donors are in the  sub-$10 range, and Cat is not quite at $100.


SOLUTION  The video below shows how to make logarithmic charts, and we take the sanity even further with combo charts and secondary axes.

That’s it for today. Now, I urge you: keep your data clean and do not make crazy visuals.

If you got something from this, please subscribe to the blog. I post weekly with something related to helping keep this world spinning on clean, useful, trustworthy data. You’re also invited to send in questions that may turn into blogposts or videos.

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magnifying glass photo credit: Mike “Dakinewavamon” Kline via photopin cc