A pie chart is a circular graph which displays data in an easy-to-read pie slice format. Each slice represents a category of data and the size is proportional to the quantity it represents.
The pie chart is one of the most used and hated chart types of all times. Its shape is very familiar, but this visual representation is easily misleading if not used properly.
Pie charts are popular as they are easy to create and understand but they are only effective when you're comparing 3-5 different data points with different quantities that are easy to differentiate.
View more examples of pie charts.
Infogram is a free online chart maker that offers four of the most widely used pie chart types (classical pie chart, doughnut chart, semi-circle chart and irregular polar area diagram). Here’s how they differ:
Pie chart – Compares the values of categories as part of the whole, displaying angle-size differences. Example: Total spending by category.
Doughnut chart – Compares values by displaying differences in length and allows the empty center to be filled with additional information. Example: Quantity of cars sold by region.
Semi-circle pie chart - As the name suggests, it is half of a pie chart, yet still represents parts of a whole. Example: Referendum results.
Irregular pie chart – Compares data through differences in the length of the radius of each segment. Example: Customer Survey.
The main use of a pie chart is to show comparisons between different categories. They are widely used in the media and in business reports as they give the reader a quick idea of the proportional distribution of data.
When the number of data categories are small (less than 6) and you don't need to show progression over time, a pie chart might be appropriate.
Use a Pie chart if you want to illustrate the dominance of one category over the others.
Have more questions about the appropriate type of chart to use? Check out this article.