ref: 494dcd504bd6ebb68b59e8a04057b0a087570d38 uglyduck.srht.site/_posts/2021-06-07-css-slope-graphs.md -rw-r--r-- 7.8 KiB
494dcd50 — Bradley Taunt tweaking overall design - still very much a WIP 8 months ago

#title: "CSS Slope Graphs" layout: post summary: "A simple tutorial showing how to create simple slope graphs with only CSS."

I am a huge sucker for simplistic and beautifully designed visual data on the web. Most data tends to be graphed via line or bar systems - which is fine - but I think slope graphs are highly underrated. Let's change that, shall we?

#The Demo

I'm basing this demo off the design patterns found in Edward Tufte's visualization work, specifically his slope graph designs:

See the Pen CSS Slopegraphs by Bradley Taunt (@bradleytaunt) on CodePen.


For this concept we will actually be building this graph out of tables - crazy, right? The greatest benefit of rendering all the data inside of a table element is the ability to easily support smaller screens and mobile devices. Larger viewports will get to see the pretty slope graph, while those below a certain threshold will view a simple table.

(But more on that in the CSS section)

<p>Sales of the leading frozen pizza brands of the United States from 2011 to 2017 (in million US dollars) <br><em>Source: Statisa 2018</em></p>
            <th>Pizza Brand</th>
            <td data-set="677.0">DiGiorno</td>
            <td data-name="DiGiorno">1014.6</td>
            <td data-set="294.8">Private Label</td>
            <td data-name="Private Label">524.8</td>
            <td data-set="286.1">Red Baron</td>
            <td data-name="Red Baron">572.3</td>
            <td data-set="257.9">Tombstone</td>
            <td data-name="Tombstone">270.6</td>
            <td data-set="164.5">Totino's Party Pizza</td>
            <td data-name="Totino's Party Pizza">347.2</td>

As you can see, nothing too fancy is happpening here. Pay close attention to the data-set and data-name variables though - those will be important for the CSS portion of this design, mainly the rendering of the line elements.

#The CSS

To avoid overwhelming your brain all-at-once, let's break the CSS down into bite-sized chunks, starting with the base styling:

@import url('https://opentype.netlify.com/et-book/index.css');
* {
    box-sizing: border-box;

html {
    height: 100%;

body {
    background: #fffff8;
    font-family: "et-book", serif;
    height: 100%;
    margin: 0 auto;
    max-width: 800px;
    padding: 0 0.5rem;

p {
    font-size: 18px;
    margin: 4rem 0 6rem;

table {
    border-collapse: collapse;
    text-align: left;
    width: 100%;

Pretty basic stuff.

Now we need to design how our slope graph will look on larger screens / desktops. For this instance, we will target these larger devices with a min-width media query of 800px. The rest of the CSS might look a little confusing but I assure you it is quite simple.

  1. On larger devices we hide the first thead tr th element with display: none
  2. The first and second td elements inside each tbody row need to be set as position: absolute to avoid duplicate content
  3. The inner span that we include in our HTML inside the second tbody tr td also needs to be display: none
  4. Remember that data-set variable? We now use that for our :before pseudo element for table tbody tr td:nth-of-type(1)
  5. Remember that data-name variable? We now use that for our :before pseudo element for table tbody tr td:nth-of-type(3)
  6. After that, you can see the simple customization we include to render the angle / position of the slope lines and the corresponding labels
@media(min-width:800px) {
    table {
        display: block;
        position: relative;
        margin-bottom: 25rem;

    table thead th {
        border-bottom: 1px solid lightgrey;
        font-size: 24px;
        position: absolute;
        top: -50px;
        width: 45%;
    table thead th:nth-child(1){ display: none; }
    table thead th:nth-child(2){ left: 0; }
    table thead th:nth-child(3){ right: 0; text-align: right; }

    table tbody tr td:nth-of-type(1),
    table tbody tr td:nth-of-type(2) { position: absolute;}

    table tbody tr td:nth-of-type(2) span { display: none; }
    table tbody tr td:nth-of-type(1):before {
        content: attr(data-set);
        margin-right: 10px;
        position: relative;

    table tbody tr td:nth-of-type(2) { padding-left: 10px; }

    table tbody tr td:nth-of-type(3) {
        position: absolute;
        right: 0;
    table tbody tr td:nth-of-type(3):before {
        content: attr(data-name);
        margin-right: 10px;
        position: relative;

    /* Custom individual slopes -- Left */
    tbody tr:nth-child(1) td:nth-child(1),
    tbody tr:nth-child(1) td:nth-child(2) { top: 60px; }
    tbody tr:nth-child(2) td:nth-child(1),
    tbody tr:nth-child(2) td:nth-child(2) { top: 140px; }
    tbody tr:nth-child(3) td:nth-child(1),
    tbody tr:nth-child(3) td:nth-child(2) { top: 165px; }
    tbody tr:nth-child(4) td:nth-child(1),
    tbody tr:nth-child(4) td:nth-child(2) { top: 220px; }
    tbody tr:nth-child(5) td:nth-child(1),
    tbody tr:nth-child(5) td:nth-child(2) { top: 270px; }

    /* Custom individual slopes -- Right */
    [data-name="DiGiorno"] { top: 0; }
    [data-name="Red Baron"] { top: 65px; }
    [data-name="Private Label"] { top: 100px; }
    [data-name="Tombstone"] { top: 180px; }
    [data-name="Totino's Party Pizza"] { top: 150px; }

    /* The custom visual lines */
    tbody tr:after {
        background: black;
        content: '';
        height: 1px;
        left: 14.5%;
        position: absolute;
        width: 70%;
    tbody tr:nth-child(1):after {
        top: 40px;
        transform: rotate(-6deg);
    tbody tr:nth-child(2):after {
        left: 17.5%;
        top: 130px;
        transform: rotate(-4deg);
        width: 65%;
    tbody tr:nth-child(3):after {
        left: 15%;
        top: 125px;
        transform: rotate(-10.25deg);
        width: 70%;
    tbody tr:nth-child(4):after {
        left: 16%;
        top: 210px;
        transform: rotate(-4deg);
        width: 68%;
    tbody tr:nth-child(5):after {
        left: 22%;
        top: 222px;
        transform: rotate(-16deg);
        width: 56%;

All that's left are some minor styles to make everything look nice on mobile:

@media(max-width:800px) {
    p {
        margin: 2rem 0;
    table td, table th {
        border-bottom: 1px solid grey;
        padding: 10px;
    table td:last-of-type, table th:last-of-type {
        text-align: right;

#Not the most practical

This slope graph concept is far from perfect for use in real-world situations. The fact that you need to manually render each point of data yourself makes this implementation quite annoying for more in-depth projects.

But it was fun to mess around with and create, so who cares!