Turn Your Charts Into Xkcd-Style Charts With These Tools

Graphic: Tim Qian

I believe in charts. A good chart can stick an important fact into your mind and keep it there. And some of the best come from Randall Munroe’s webcomic xkcd. Now you can turn any chart into an xkcd chart, if you have the data and know a little code.

On xkcd, Munroe has graphed global temperature changes, radiation doses, the name of every colour, money, and the scale of the universe. Less seriously, he’s graphed the world population of Lego people, his excitement for abusing escalators, and how dumb people act around cats.

For all but his most elaborate graphs, Munroe likes to use the same shaky hand-drawn lines that he uses in his stick-figure comics. Those graphs get passed around the internet constantly. A lot of smart people like and trust that comic. If you’d like to abuse that trust by making your own graphs look like xkcd graphs, you should check out these resources:

  • xkcd style on Mathematica: Use the popular maths program to stylize your graphs. Looks a little more like “Far Side-era textbook graph,” but very charming.

  • xkcd style in Python: Use a Matplotlib library. The font is a little Nickelodeon, but it’s a good pastiche.

  • xkcd on Javascript: Use the chart.xkcd package. Lower-case letters aren’t authentic to xkcd, but they’re more readable. (via kottke.org)

Don’t actually pretend your chart is from xkcd, but do use this style to make important data look more inviting to your audience, or to spice up a presentation.


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