Graphics and the choice of axis lines

When they create a graphical plot, most people unthinkingly use the default axis linest. The axis lines on the typical scatter-plot or bar plot are the rectangle of lines around the plot data – the points or columns. Outside the axis lines are the tick marks, labels, text, and legends. Most people think of the horizontal X-axis on the bottom of the plot and the vertical Y-axis on the left, but there are also the top and right-side axis lines.

Using data from the General Counsel Metrics 2010 benchmark survey, the four plots below show different styles of X and Y axis lines. The first is plain vanilla: a black line around the data plotting area. The plot below it chooses a dashed line that is thicker than the default line size. The third plot introduces color, blue, while the final plot removes the left and bottom axis lines (X and Y).

My preference leans toward minimalism. Shun colored, thick, dashed and like options for axis lines because they distract the reader from the actual data being presented. Default black lines are comfortable to readers, but I still favor no lines at all.



We encourage you to take the GC Metrics 2014  survey;  Aside from some demographic questions like name, email and industry, the no-cost survey asks for 2013 number of lawyers, paralegals, and other staff; inside and external legal spend; and revenue.  You will receive the Summer Release in August.

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