it all comes full circle

In yesterday's post, I shared one of my favorite examples of small multiples. Save the Children's report on the state of moms around the world focused in a couple of key numbers and repeated the pattern for each country included. 

Here's a totally different example from Simon Rogers Guardian and another very effective use of circles.


In contrast to the small multiples, this graph highlights a subset of countries, organizes them by continent, then focuses on a single metric-- emission levels. 

Why I love it

These circles are so effective because they enable the reader to quickly understand the difference in magnitude on a single data point. I like that it's grouped by continent because it helps orient you to where the lesser known countries are located. I also love the colors but it might leave some people craving Skittles rather than evoking concern for the environment.  Lastly, it's further supported by a couple of line graphs and tables at the bottom for some addition detail. Big stuff on the top, little on the bottom. 

How you might use it

If you like the circles*, consider using them to compare a single important data element across a number of units within your organization.  Program budgets might be one example.  Or people served by a specific program benefiting the public across a number of locations might be another. The key is to pick one important outcome and track it against multiple contributors so that you can see the key players.

To be sure, this took lots and lots of time to assemble. I don't know specifically but I'm guessing it was more than a single afternoon. If you're thinking of replicating a series of charts like these, consider doing it as a poster that will be printed and displayed, as well as, posted electronically. This format isn't appropriate for a PowerPoint presentation.  It should be treated as a stand-alone communications product. Actually, it's a good reason to forget the presentation all together and just do this.

*I had a client years ago who didn't like circles. I'm not kidding. They were banned from all deliverables after we brought him a draft that he glanced at then retitled "the birth control chart" during a big staff meeting. Awesome. I'd never met someone with such an aversion to a basic shape. Primary colors?  Sure.  A lot of people hate yellow.  But a circle?  It makes me sad just thinking about it. I hope this never happens to you.