The “On…” series is a collection of short blog posts relating to data visualization, economics, presentation skills, or data communication. In each, I discuss an issue, concept, or idea that I have not fully developed, a work in progress, or just some thoughts about a topic or issue I’d like to share.

I saved this late June tweet from Chris Ingraham for two reasons: First, it’s a nice example of how a bar chart can do a nice job showing an outlier (i.e., don’t break the bar!). Second, could I use Excel to add some fireworks to a graph about fireworks?

Turns out, yes, we can create this chart in Excel. Here’s a quick tutorial.

There are more fireworks all over NYC as a firework (lollipop) chart in Excel.

This is a simple combination chart that uses a bar chart and a scatterplot. I use a bar chart to create the x-axis labels (and set the color fill to No Color at the end). The scatterplot dimensions are set so that the x-values are right in the middle of the bars and the y-values are the data values (Complaints).

Data table to make the fireworks graph

I then changed the marker in the scatterplot to a Picture. I started first by using an icon directly in the Insert menu, but when I shrank the image down and inserted it into the chart, it looked really blurry. Instead, I grabbed an icon from The Noun Project, downloaded it in SVG file format, and resized and colored it in Adobe Illustrator. (I initially downloaded it as a PNG, but I needed to resize and color it, so I used the SVG format.)

Do I foresee using this in the future? Probably not, but more generally, hopefully you can see how you could add icons to your Excel charts (so-called “chartjunk” notwithstanding). Anyways, it was fun to create, especially for July 4th.

UPDATE: In case you didn’t see the comment below, Jon Peltier suggests just doing this as a line chart (with markers), add Drop Lines, and then copy-and-paste the icon over the markers. On this last step, I have found that the resolution of the icon is much worse using this method (see below). I’m not sure why–maybe inserting into the Excel file and then copy-and-pasting does something to the file? In any case, a line chart is definitely easier than the bar/scatterplot combo chart.

Fireworks graph as a line chart