What is a Combination Chart?

The combination chart, also known as a combo chart, is a type of visualization used to compare data in a few varying categories over a period. It uses several lines/bars, each representing an individual category. Combination charts are usually used to convey distinctions between different data sets.

Combination Chart Example

Visualizations like combination charts are popular in the science, marketing, education, and finance industries. They come in several types and can empower individuals like analysts to understand or convey complex information and make informed decisions.

Combination Chart Types

As stated above, combination charts have a versatile nature. There are several types of combinations one can use to create combo chart types. This offers various unique and creative ways for individuals to display complex data. Here are a few common types of combination charts:

Line Graph and Bar Chart Combination

Line graph and bar chart combinations are among the easiest and most popular ways of using combo charts. These charts display a line that tracks the average across every bar or the maximum or average value of every bar. Some advanced line and bar combination charts may also display different measures than the bars.

For instance, a company selling computers may leverage a bar chart to evaluate sales of every type of computer sold. They may integrate a line chart into the bar to represent the profits for each type of computer. Armed with this information, the company can efficiently identify what products are selling the most and which are selling the least and make decisions accordingly.

Column and Line Chart Combination

The column and line chart combination leverages the benefits of visualization techniques: line charts and vertical bar charts. This chart features vertical bar charts, which display quantities, while the line charts serve as a source for displaying ratios or percentages. Column and line charts are commonly used to convey changes in data over time.

Creating a Combination Chart

For example, a store may use column and line chart combinations to display their sales. The vertical bars can represent the frequency of sales, while the line can help understand how much money they are making from the sales.

Line Graph and Clustered Bar Charts Combination

The line graph and clustered bar chart combination is the advanced version of the standard line and bar chart combination. These combinations add an extended degree of value to a line graph by allowing it to display the average value of every cluster.

You can use the line to represent different data types and showcase a median value for every cluster to give an overview of the trends for every category. By leveraging this unique combination of charts and graphs, you can get valuable insights into the average value of each cluster to understand trends and intricate nuances within every cluster.

Stacked Bar and Clustered Column Combination Chart

The stacked bar and clustered column combination chart is a unique combo chart that leverages two bar graph types to enhance the value of visual analysis. The chart features three or more vertical bars to display several data series. The stacked bars help split every bar into smaller components to showcase an extra layer of information.

For example, companies can review the yearly sales data for stores across different regions. Every cluster on the chart can represent each year's sales, and every column can represent the different regions. Stacked bars and clustered column charts can also help companies understand yearly and quarterly sales for every region. The stacked bars can help divide every column into smaller portions, allowing companies to understand the role of the smaller portions to the whole.

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When to Use a Combination Chart

A combination chart may not represent all types of data and information. Therefore, you must understand when to use combination charts to ensure you use them in all the right situations. This combination chart serves as the ideal tool when dealing with multifaceted datasets.

Furthermore, combo charts do an excellent job of highlighting the relationships and contrasts between various data types. For example, if you wish to get comprehensive insights into your sales, using a line chart to track revenue trends and a column chart to highlight corresponding quantities sold can help you understand the relationship between these variables.

Moreover, when dealing with categorical data comprising percentages and numbers, a combination chart integrating line graphs and bar charts can help convey information like how each category changes in proportion to the other over time.

Examples of Combination Charts

Here are some real-life examples of combination charts to help you better understand the different types of combination charts and how you can use them in your visualization strategy.

Example #1

Mrs. Brenda owns three different types of retail stores and plans on throwing an annual party for every separate location. She wants a grand party for every location while ensuring she serves something to eat for every worker (the vegans, the flexitarians, the pescatarians) - all while adhering to a budget.

Mrs. Brenda gathers data on each retail store's vegan, flexitarian, and pescatarian employee ratio. She then uses a clustered bar chart to visualize the data and comprehend the percentage of every different type of food eater group. However, Mrs. Brenda still has to worry about staying within the budget.

She lists the dishes she could keep for every food eater group. However, she must figure out which dish will be the least expensive - to stay within budget. Mrs. Brenda decided to merge the clustered bar chart and line graph to depict the total cost each dish takes to create, allowing her to choose the most inexpensive dishes on the list.

Example #2

A salon discovers they are overspending on influencer marketing. The marketing team decided to leverage combo charts to understand the data surrounding influencer marketing. Through the combo charts, the team wishes to evaluate their influencer marketing data and develop strategies to reduce spending by cutting ties with influencers who might not be generating high sales and eating up a large portion of their budget.

The salon creates combo charts featuring bar clusters that display the requests, conversions, and clicks generated by each influencer's followers. This helps them understand the engagement and sales contribution each influencer brings. However, they believe the increased engagement and sales are not worth it if they pay the influencers' exorbitant premiums.

Therefore, the marketing team combines line graphs into a clustered bar chart to display the fee they pay to every influencer to determine which influencers are the most paid. This visualization empowers the team to compare every influencer, their contribution to sales and engagement, and the fees they charge to make well-formed decisions on which ones to keep and which to let go to ensure they stay within their influencer marketing budget.

Pros and Cons of Combination Charts


Compare and Understand the Impact Different Measures Have on One Another

Combination charts simplify the task of comparing different measures since they diminish the need for you to switch from one visualization to another to evaluate patterns, correlations, and other important details. The ability to overlay and combine different visualizations can help viewers understand the relationships between each data set and how every dataset's result impacts the other.

Combination charts make it easier for you to determine the impact of every column in a bar chart, which affects the trajectory of the line graph. These graphs offer an effortless way for professionals to compare and understand correlations and patterns without analyzing several charts.

Combo charts give you a diversified view of important data and trends, allowing you to focus on the areas that require immediate attention. Therefore, these charts are a great tool to help companies proactively detect and manage risks, allowing them to maintain steady growth.

Save Time

Combination charts can help professionals in different fields save time by efficiently condensing the information into a single visualization. By fusing several charts and data types, presenters can efficiently convey complex data to their audience and save the time that would have otherwise been wasted on explaining several visualizations individually.

Moreover, it would also reduce the workload on professionals since they would now only have to create one visual data representation instead of working on several graphs and charts to convey complex data and the relationship of one data set with the other. Additionally, combination charts can also help save the audience's time. With a quick evaluation of one combination chart, the audience can get insight into different variables and data sets, allowing them to make timely decisions.

Enhanced Insight

Enhanced insight is among the key advantages of combination charts. Integrating more than one chart type into a visualization can help you narrate the visualization context more effectively and tell a more detailed and complete story.

Getting important insights into data is among the top reasons we create visualizations. Therefore, the ability to offer enhanced data insights makes combination charts a great visualization technique for individuals requiring detailed data insights.

Furthermore, sometimes, it can be difficult to decode the raw data presented through visualizations. Combination charts are an effective technique for presenting raw data in an easily understandable manner. Therefore, these charts can help you make well-formed data-driven decisions.

Combination charts allow you to overlay charts together, which simplifies the process of making comparisons and measuring the relation between data sets. Hence, they are a helpful tool that can help you display complex data into easy-to-understand insights.


Complexity and Risk of Misinterpretation

While integrating different charts can offer benefits like enhanced insights, if not created properly, these charts may also come with the risk of overwhelming the audience. Some combination charts may have a complex nature and may be difficult to understand by audiences with no prior experience decoding combination charts.

This can serve as a major drawback of the combination chart and diminish the entire purpose of the chart, which is to effectively convey complex information to an audience. When creating a combination chart, it can be challenging to create an easy-to-understand layout that naturally guides the audience through the chart, allowing them to decode the insights being conveyed without becoming confused.

This requires making well-informed design decisions like clear labeling, proper color coding, and accurate use of all design principles to reduce complexity. Moreover, one must evaluate the number of data series they include in the chart to avoid cluttering it. A cluttered chart can increase the likelihood of miscalculations and confusion.

Overshadowed Critical Insights

One of the major drawbacks of using combination charts lies in the potential for overemphasis. Certain trends or data series can take the spotlight and overshadow other crucial insights. This occurs due to the inherent visual prominence of specific colors or chart types, leading viewers to focus more on the visually striking elements.

Overshadowed critical insights can create a skewed perception of the data due to the highlighted aspects dominating the entire narrative. The highlighted components standing out may not be an issue. The problems occur when equally relevant or even more important trends get ignored.

Moreover, when certain aspects of data are excessively highlighted, they can impact actions and judgments and cause decision-makers to focus on the visually dominant aspects. This leads to them neglecting other critical facets, causing issues like misinformed forecasting efforts and misallocated resources.

Although creating combination charts that accurately reflect the importance of different data series is critical, it can also be challenging. However, practice and strategic placement of data series can help counteract the unintentional overemphasis.

Limited Data Series

Combination charts demand a limited data size - which can be difficult to achieve - especially when dealing with many data series. The visual space becomes increasingly constrained as you increase the number of data series on a combination chart.

This can result in a cluttered web of intersecting bars, lines, and labels, making the chart more difficult to grasp. The lack of coherence significantly reduces the chart's efficacy, transforming it from an effective tool into a frustrating impediment to data comprehension.

Although it can be easy to incorporate a series of data sets into a combination chart due to factors like comprehensive insights, you must acknowledge the limitations of visual space. While producing a combination chart that balances inclusivity and clarity can be challenging, techniques like filtering can help you achieve this.

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Best Practices

Clearly label Each Component

Clear labeling is a non-negotiable element for effective communication. Labeling can help guide viewers through a chart and offer them context to help them understand the information being conveyed. Clear labels can help convey details on the chart types, data points, and implications. Therefore, you must place accurate labels above data points, axes, and legends.

Doing so can help prevent common issues like misinterpretation and ensure your visualization accurately conveys the intended message. Proper labeling can help you offer a user-friendly experience and allow the viewers to quickly grasp the comparisons, trends, and relationships presented within the chart.

Pay Attention to Scaling

When creating combination charts, it is critical to pay careful attention to scaling. Every chart may have varying measurement ranges. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that these scales remain compatible. Many resort to using dual axes as a solution. However, it is important not to let them distort the data representation.

Misaligned scaling can increase the risk of misinterpretation. This can lead to trends appearing suppressed or exaggerated, potentially misleading viewers. By calibrating the scales properly and following clear labeling, you can help the audience accurately interpret the data without confusion.

Select Data Sets Strategically

Careful selection of data series is critical in helping craft effective combination charts. It is important to pick data sets that share a logical connection and work well together. Therefore, when picking data series, choose the ones that complement each other. Moreover, avoid combining disparate datasets that lack a clear correlation.

This could lead to an inaccurate representation of the information. By strategically aligning data series that work well together, you can create an effective combination chart that offers valuable insights without muddling the audience's understanding.


Combination charts serve as a promising data visualization tool. They offer several benefits, like the capacity to represent intricate relationships and trends within datasets. They can also help data analysts create comprehensive data insights and save time. However, combination charts have several risks, like overshadowed critical insights and misinterpretation.

Understanding the pros and cons of combination charts and following best practices like strategic data alignment, increased focus on scaling, and proper labeling can help data analysts maximize their potential and achieve clearer communication and more informed decision-making.

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