How to Make Difference Charts in Excel

Also known as a bivariate area chart, the plot type focuses on the comparison between two time series.

Regular line charts display patterns and trends over time. Instead of comparing those trends, you may want to emphasize the gap between two series and the sections where they intersect and flip. That is what bivariate area charts are used for. A well-known historical example of a bivariate area chart is William Playfair’s trade balance chart.

In Excel, you can create a bivariate area chart with a combination of area and line chart. To illustrate this chart we’ll use a popular dataset, food availability in the US, and specifically the evolution of beef and chicken availability. We want to focus on the flip in recent years, when chicken surpassed beef.

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About the Author

Jorge Camoes is a data visualization consultant based in Lisbon. Author of the book Data at Work. Runs ExcelCharts.com, where he discusses how to use Excel as data visualization tool. Recently playing with PowerBI & PowerQuery.