Do Not Build This 3-D Chart in Excel

My eyes are still burning from this experiment, so read on at your own risk!
Last week, you saw this book cover, here on the Contextures blog. I asked if you, as the author, would approve the cover artwork.
There were several comments, with most people agreeing that they would have selected a different chart example. This kind of pie chart isn't available in the built-in Excel chart types (thank goodness!), so why promote it on the cover?

Yes You Can Build It

However, Excel guru Andy Pope (who might not want his name mentioned in connection with this abomination), pointed out that you can indeed build this chart in Excel, by using Smart Art. You can read the comments to see the jokes about that name. 😉
And he is right! Below, you can see the chart that I created in Excel 2010, so stop reading now, if you have a sensitive stomach. It's not an exact reproduction of the cover chart, but as close as I could get before the paramedics arrived.

The Smart Art Instructions

Here are Andy's instructions, for creating this chart. If you try it, please burn the chart immediately after finishing it, so it doesn't spread into the wild!
To create the stepped pie chart:

  • On the Excel Ribbon, click the Insert tab, and click Smart Art


  • A blank chart is created, with 3 equal-sized slices. Up to 7 slices are available, so I created 7 bullets, with a space character after each bullet. One slice was "exploded", so I dragged it in, to line up with the other slices.


  • On the Ribbon's Design tab, select one of the 3-D styles, e.g. Bird's Eye Scene.
  • Right-click one of the slices, and click Format Shape
  • In the Fill Category, select a colour for the shape – the gaudier the better!
  • In the 3-D Format category, set the depth for the slice. In my chart, the 2 red slices are 90 pt.
  • In the 3-D Rotation category, set the distance from ground to the same setting as the depth


  • Format the remaining slices, with the colours, depth and distance from ground varying, to create the stepped effect. I used all the colours of the rainbow, and depths of 10, 20, 40, 60, 80 and 90. Awesome!


  • To merge the 2 red slices, and flatten all the tops, I changed the Bevel setting for the Top to No Bevel, in 3-D Format, for each slice.
  • Then, you can play with the other settings, like Gradient fill and Perspective, to create a unique work of art.

And remember – do not use this chart type in your Excel workbooks! Now I have to go and wash my hands.

0 thoughts on “Do Not Build This 3-D Chart in Excel”

  1. Debra, I know you don't like it, and I understand why, but I have to say it's very attractive. The colors, sizes and perspective are harmonious, and the overall effect is quite pleasing (none of which was true with the original). Along with your other talents I think you have a knack for Smart Chart Art!

  2. Thanks for the tip. I think I'll build an add-in with custom steps and sizes.

    Then I'll sell it to Jon Peltier so he can add it to his collection that clearly miss this great feature. I'm sure he'll like it 😛

    ( ) )
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  3. It is visually interesting even to someone who is color blind. However, it is just a SmartArt graphic. It is not a chart and is not dependent on data for its dimensions. Until that happens, I don't think any of us have to worry about it becoming a mainstream technique.

  4. Well it pays to read down the e-mails instead of up from old to new. Then again what else would I do. Got behind in computer work, pleasure comes second.

  5. Funny and instructive Debra. Lol
    Let's call a priest to exorcize this chart.
    So bad we cannot connect it to the sheet data. Just guessing.

  6. Can I just say, that I know people who would like this kind of 'chart' to the extent of being 'quit excited'. Unfortunately, as these 'people' are in a higher position than me, outing them could be a backward career move!

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