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How to Make Better-Looking, More Readable Charts in R

Defaults are generalized settings to work with many datasets. This is fine for analysis, but data graphics for presentation benefit from context-specific design.

Charts generated in R often look like they came from R, because the easiest thing to do is to just to use default settings. However, just because you make the charts in R doesn’t mean they have to look that way.

My preferred method is to export charts as PDF files and edit in Adobe Illustrator, but this workflow isn’t for everyone. Sometimes it’s useful to keep everything in R.

This tutorial starts you with a default chart and changes parameters step-by-step to improve readability.

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About the Author

Nathan Yau is a statistician who works primarily with visualization. He earned his PhD in statistics from UCLA, is the author of two best-selling books — Data Points and Visualize This — and runs FlowingData. Introvert. Likes food. Likes beer.