A technique I like to use a lot is to use shadows. But not too much – using drop shadow is like using make-up: Just putting on a little bit can make it look better, use too much and it will probably look horrible. The difference is not hugely visible, but to me even the subtle difference is nice.
Just a touch of shadow to emphasize – like make-up
Background Color, Axis and Gridlines
Now we’ve done a lot to improve the charts and the next few steps will depend on taste and preference, but here is how I like to further work on charts. I would change the background color to a very light color and to be able to see the grindlines I would make them white.
After that I would remove the labels on the side and add them on top of all the bars, so every time someone sees a chart bar, their eyes don’t have to wander to side of the axis to be able to read the values.
Adding some background gradient and making the gridlines white
Deleting the labels on the side and putting them on top of the bars makes – in my opinion – the charts more readable
Here is a reminder from where we started
Some more examples on applying the same techniques on different charts
Try out some techniques and just play around with PowerPoint or Keynote (or any other slideware software you use) and see what suits you.