What Data Is Best Represented in a Bubble Chart?

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By David

Do you remember as a child playing with bubbles and loving them? You were enamored by the size of the bubble and that there were just so many different colors in a bubble. Maybe it still brings back happy memories for you. If you never experienced the joy of blowing or chasing a bubble, it’s not too late.

You might even be able to get some of the same thrill from making a bubble chart. A bubble chart is all about taking a data series and putting it into different bubble size metrics to create your data point. It’s a great way to analyze a dataset and make your data look unique and fun in the process.

If you’re not familiar with the bubble chart, we’ve got you covered. Check out this simple overview of the bubble chart.

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Bubble Chart Overview

A bubble chart is primarily defined as a scatter chart. You use the same approach as you would with a scatter plot, but the chart is reflected in bubbles rather than a simple dot. When you learn how to make a bubble chart, you find that it’s a scatter chart with a third dimension look to it. You place your data set details into the coordinates. The bubble chart uses only two axes, whereas most 3D charts use three axes. In this instance, it’s actually the bubble size that will ultimately represent your third axis title, so keep that in mind.

A bubble chart can be made using appropriate software. You can also make these in Excel, a Google sheet, or some other template. You just need a data set to enter the bubble chart.

The Best Way to Use Bubble Charts

Bubble charts are primarily about data visualization. The data is represented by the bubble size, and then you can differentiate things for visualization purposes with the color of the bubble as well. A single data point should be in one color palette so the viewer can understand where the differentiation lies within the chart area.

If you are going to use a bubble chart, understanding what sets of data work best will make a difference. Remember that this is a data visualization tool. If you intend to see the profit in your budget or exact data, it isn’t always ideal. A different chart type is best for exact data.

Each bubble in this type of scatter plot is meant to provide data visualization for a relationship between details in the data series. What you need to consider is whether numeric variables are related. Your bubbles will represent whether or not numeric values from the data table are related. That’s where the visualization occurs. You might use a basic bubble chart to explore the relationship between a product and the demographic it is used in. This is just one example.

Ultimately, the goal is to have a visualization of the chosen data set and then to visually notice how those pieces react together in the chart area.

Negative Values

The challenge that most people run into on a chart template is representing negative values. If your dataset has negative values, you might have to mess around with the chart template to make it work. This will depend on the template you are using and how it works. In some cases, the negative values are represented by simply having an unfilled bubble or perhaps by using a specific font or even color choice to make your illustration.

Your positive value would then be filled bubbles or some other identifying factor or bubble color for the select data. The design elements are really up to the creator. Bubble charts are meant to be interactive charts as opposed to the traditional chart that shows an exact dataset by contrast.