“the greatest value of a picture is when it forces us to notice what we never expected to see.” - John Turkey

Here is a good resource for making matplotlib plots prettier: http://nbviewer.ipython.org/gist/olgabot/5357268

That said, the fact that you have to do so much work to get something done points to a problem.

Bokeh aims to fix this by making a matplotlib style plotting for the internet: http://nbviewer.ipython.org/github/damianavila/bokeh_overview/blob/master/Bokeh%20Overview.ipynb

It's worth knowing about this package and exploring it, but it doesn't seem ready for prime time yet.

First let's see an unsurprising example.

In [22]:
from bokeh.sampledata.iris import flowers
from bokeh.plotting import *