How to make a bar chart with Chartbuilder

How to
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Quartz’s digital guru David Yanofsky was tired of building a branded chart every time a reporter asked him. So he built a dashboard so any novice coder could design and tweak their own. Then, Quartz open-sourced the dashboard for anyone to use. (Medium’s developers just released which can visualize a spreadsheet you supply to it via URL. It’s worth playing around with, too.)

Here’s a chart I built with Chartbuilder.

Top ten colleges in Boston and Cambridge by food waste



Get the data


I Googled “filetype:xls Massachusetts food waste” and got a spreadsheet from the Massachusetts DEP that was initially based off an assessment by the US Environmental Protection Agency of Massachusetts food generators. Cool. I use LibreOffice.

raw data

Clean the data


Next, I filtered the list of 6,857 entries down to just Boston and Cambridge.



I copied this into a new sheet and ran another filter for the DEP code “IC” which limits my list to only colleges and universities.

limit IC


This resulted in the following:



Next, I took the top 10 food wasters by sorting the column “Generation (tons/year).” I copied this into another spreadsheet and hacked off two decimal places by selecting “Format –> Cells.” Voilá, a cleaned dataset:

cleaner data


Graphing it with Chartbuilder


I opened up Chartbuilder in a web browser.

open chartbuilder


Then I simply pasted in the 11 x 2 table of cleaned data.

paste in data


Next, I selected the “2. Series Options” and clicked Chart in the dropdown menu.

make chart

Then I changed the color in “2. Series Options.” Next, I cleaned up the axes and credited the data sources under “3. Chart Options.”



Embedding your chart


Finally, I clicked “Create Image of Chart” from “4. Export” and downloaded a .png file of my chart. Beware: once you close the Chartbuilder tab on your browser, there’s no way of retrieving your information.



Finished product:



Storybench’s editor is Aleszu Bajak, a science journalist and former Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT. He is an alum of Science Friday, the founder of, and is passionate about breaking down the divide between journalists, developers and designers.

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