A donut chart is more than just a sweet addition to your infographics, presentations and other visual communication. Donut charts can help you convey a ton of information, and they have a more modern appeal than some other options.
Let’s explore everything you need to know about donut charts, including when they’re best left on the shelf and how you can customize donut charts with just a few clicks using Venngage’s intuitive Pie Chart Maker.
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What is a donut chart?
A donut chart is a variation of a standard pie chart. Its name comes from its resemblance to a breakfast treat, as the biggest difference between pie and donut charts is that donut charts have their centers removed.
Some donut charts have very narrow outer rings with large holes in the center, such as the ones above. One big benefit of this is it allows you to convey a lot of information in a compact space, with an icon and the percentage being visualized in the center.
Other donut pie charts have slightly smaller center gaps with thicker outer rings that still allow for additional information to be conveyed, as in these examples. In this case, you still have the benefit of taking a small amount of space to convey a lot of information.
The donut graphs in the bottom left of this larger infographic strike a good balance between ample space inside the circle to list percentages while still having a thick band on the outer edge. This is especially important if there are long words associated with the information being described.
For example, fitting “desktop/laptop” or “smartphone” in a small space underneath the percentage would be challenging and require the text to be quite small. But by dropping it down below the donut chart, the effect is the same as if it were all in the center of the donut.
Donut charts can also sit on their own without the accompanying percentages being included in the center of the chart, as in this example.
Donut charts can also be sliced in half to save even more space. Half donut charts are semi-circles in which the slices correspond to 100%, just like a larger donut chart or pie chart. One big benefit is that it can reduce the visual real estate needed to convey your information.
When should you use a donut chart?
As we’ve seen, there are multiple ways of handling donut charts, which makes them extremely versatile. What all those uses have in common is that the data underlying the donut chart is a percentage.
Whether conveying a single percentage or showing the balance of how multiple percentage figures add up to 100, donut pie charts show parts of a whole. It’s common for donut charts conveying a single percentage to list only the percentage in question, but the audience can infer that the remaining portion will add up to 100.
Learn more about the do’s and don’ts of infographic and chart design.
When should you not use a donut chart?
Donut charts are appropriate for visualizing a single percentage or the balance of all figures adding up to 100%, but there are many times when a donut chart isn’t the best option even when you’re dealing with parts of a whole.
This example illustrates a situation in which information overload makes a donut chart hard to read. There’s little added data visualization value to these donut charts, particularly the one about electricity because so many items are included.
Because there are so many items included, the text is quite small, even inside the center of the donut. They get points for using blue to denote water and red/orange/yellow to denote electricity, but some information sorting or a different visualization method would have been better.
These donut charts show another data-related error in using donut charts. Each one is fine in itself, but the real takeaway of the information is how the categories (device types) compare to each other.
That means getting the most of these donut charts requires bouncing back and forth between the donut chart for each device, the key and the other donut charts. Grouping information differently and/or using a different data visualization type would have made the information more useful.
(Credit to data analytics specialist Miranda Li for flagging these examples.)
Is a donut chart the same as a pie chart?
Essentially, yes, a donut chart is the same as a pie chart. The difference is donut charts don’t show the full pie slice; they only show a portion of it. But for most pie chart uses, a donut chart would be a perfect substitute.
Still, there are instances when using a donut chart would be better than using a pie chart.
If you want to save space or make use of the extra space in the center of the chart, donut charts or half donut charts are the way to go.
You want to keep the number of data categories in a donut chart limited to 5 at most—with 2 to 4 categories being the sweet spot—as you want readers to easily compare the percentages by looking at the differences in the arc lengths.
With more than 5 categories, you’d better switch to using pie charts, or consider using some other graphs to convey percentages or parts of a whole.
How do you create a donut chart with Venngage?
Making and customizing a donut pie chart with Venngage is easy.
Step 1: Sign up for a FREE Venngage account
You can register using your email address, your Gmail account or Facebook account.
Step 2: Choose a template or start with a blank canvas
If you want your chart to stand alone, take a look at our pie chart templates and choose the one you like.
If you want to use a donut chart within an infographic, a report, a presentation and so on, see the template examples we’ve included in the next section.
You can also start with a blank canvas through “Layouts”:
Step 3: Edit the donut chart template or add a new donut chart
Under “Charts”, scroll down and choose the donut chart style you want: either a full donut or a half donut.
Once you’ve chosen the chart style, double click the chart and the Edit Chart menu appears:
From this editor, you can edit the size of the donut center, add or remove label, add or remove icons and so on.
Step 4: Add text, images, icons and illustrations
Feel free to add any text, images, icons and illustrations to the template as you want. If you want to change an existing image or icon, double click the image/icon and choose the replacement in one click:
Step 5: Share publicly for free or upgrade to download
A free Venngage user has the option to share the design for free using a public link. You can also upgrade to a paid account to download your donut chart design as a PNG, PDF, PPT slide to use in presentations, or export it as an HTML file to send over emails:
Donut chart examples
Looking for more ways to use donut charts? Check out these examples to inspire your next design project.
Tech donut charts
Donut charts are an ideal way to visualize data related to technology, SEO, the internet and other modern industries. Donut charts themselves are a modern twist on a tradition (pie charts), so they’re right at home with tech-related information.
Donut charts are the only data visualization used in this infographic about the most popular social media platforms and how their audiences break down by age group.
In this infographic about laptop brands, a series of donut charts live alongside an arrow-shaped box that shows the overall industry size.
These donut charts detail several statistics about e-commerce, showing that donut charts can convey information across categories.
Marketing donut charts
The average marketing campaign produces hundreds of data points, and most marketers live and die by metrics. So donut charts, which can convey a ton of information in a tiny package, are an excellent visual weapon.
Our infographic on content marketing trends begins and ends with donut charts, which just goes to show you how strongly we endorse using them early and often.
This infographic shows multiple types of donut pie charts, beginning with the first data visualization, which is a multi-category donut chart. If you’re considering that type of donut chart, remember to err on the side of fewer categories of information.
Though they’re tucked away in the corner, the donut charts in this infographic stand out immediately thanks to the outlines around their outer rings.
As this quarterly report presentation shows, donut graphs are perfectly at home in a corporate environment. That means they’re not just for whippersnapper startups.
Donut charts go perfectly with a minimalist, understated color palette like this quarterly marketing report template displays. They can be quite subtle, which is ideal for minimalism.
Half donut charts
Half donut charts are appropriate for any topic, and their space-saving nature means you have more room to share other information or data visualization.
As this slide from our 2020 visual content marketing report shows, a half donut chart serves the same function as a full donut chart or a pie chart, but it takes up much less space. Notice how the half donut chart section is the smallest in the bigger infographic, which is below.
Donut charts are an excellent option when mixing with other types of data visualization, but as this infographic shows, they’re also perfect on their own.
Corporate report donut charts
Share annual earnings information, help teams visualize sales data and make a pitch to investors with donut charts.
Donut charts are the only true data visualization in this weekly sales report presentation template, and they stand out as a result.
Of course, donut pie charts don’t have to be the only game in town in order to stand out. In this presentation, they live alongside many other visualizations, though they still stand out because of their unique shape.
This presentation uses donut charts to give the reader a breakdown of a company’s shareholders, but it’s easy to see how donut charts can be used to visualize audience segments, age groups and other demographic information.
This presentation uses donut charts with smaller holes in the center, which fits with the slightly retro color palette and illustrative style.
This infographic uses donut charts in a unique way, connecting them to bar graphs. The donut charts provide greater detail than what’s possible in a bar chart.
Statistics donut charts
Here are a few other examples of donut graphs being used to help readers visualize a variety of statistics and percentages.
The donut charts in this infographic take a slightly unique approach of aligning the information category and icons to the right of the chart. That helps fit more information than if the categories were below the charts.
The donut pie charts in this infographic on obesity take a serious approach to a serious topic, with a simple, tone-on-tone color palette.
The Father’s Day donut chart infographic above and its accompanying chart below both illustrate how visually pleasing a simple donut chart can be. The simplicity makes the infographics easy to understand and very shareable.
In summary: Bring your data to life with donut charts: a modern take on a traditional graph
Donut graphs are the cool, younger cousin of the pie graph, and it’s easy to see why. They are sleek and simple, which ensures they are at home in just about any design style. Their versatility means they can illustrate your business data regardless of your industry.
Start creating an informative, nice and fun donut chart for your social media posts, reports or presentations using Venngage’s Pie Chart Maker. No design experience required.