skip to Main Content
PowerPoint slide reading "6 Interesting Ways to Visualize a Percentage."

Showing Simple Statistics: Percentages

I don’t know about you, but I’m desperately dreaming about a post-pandemic escape. I have decided that, once in-person gatherings are safe again, I’m renting this amazing lake house outside of Charlotte where friends and I stayed for my 40th birthday.

Whenever that blessed day comes, there are a lot of fancy ways I could make the trip. I could rent a stretch Hummer. I could charter a private jet and jump out over Lake Norman with a parachute. I could try to convince the owners of our lovely, local exotic animal rescue to lend me a camel to plod down the interstate.

Or, I could just put $20 of gas in my sensible, mid-sized SUV and be at the lake in two hours.

In the research world, scientists can sometimes get a little starry-eyed over big statistical models that involve half of the letters in the Greek alphabet. But simple statistics, like percentages and averages, can answer *lots* of important research questions.

When you have complex analyses and many datapoints, these have the potential to be illustrated in really intricate and interesting ways. But, how can you make a single, really important datapoint visually interesting? Here are 6 suggestions for representing single percentages in presentations and reports.

Add even more interest by putting the percentage in a different font and color.

This is a PowerPoint slide reading "1. Blow up the type. 11% of North Carolinians are fully vaccinated against COVID-19." It has a picture of an older man receiving a vaccine.

Take your own, or find free stock photography at Pexels, Pixabay, or Unsplash.

In general, I’m not a fan of pie charts for data visualization, particularly when you need to represent multiple percentages with precision. However, pie charts can work well as icons to represent single percentages.

Gettin’ fancy now! (This tends to work better when representing a large percentage. Hopefully we’ll be able to represent a lot of vaccinated North Carolinians this summer!!)

Like the pie chart, I’m not generally a fan of the donut chart. (Although I am a fan of donuts. Send me donuts.) But, the donut hole is great real estate for an illustrative icon.

If you don’t want to copy, paste, and align 100 icons, round it to the nearest 10 or 20% (e.g., “About 1 in 10 North Carolinians…”).

Do you have other suggestions for how to make percentages look awesome? Comment below!

Data Source:, accessed March 10, 2021
Image Source:
Icon Source:

Click here to download a handout based on this post.


This Post Has One Comment

  1. I particularly like #4 but don’t like #5. Of course, the choice would lie in who your audience is. If this graphic were for doctors and health professionals, then all of these would work but for news and the general public, I’d avoid #5.

    Needle phobia is a reason why some people don’t get vaccinated and yet so much promotional literature has pictures of shots in it. As a recovering needle phobic, it used to be that I could not even look at a picture of a shot without my heart racing and having to turn away. I never would have gotten the statistic because I wouldn’t have been able to look at it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back To Top