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    Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Buffalo, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Kampala, DC… it’s been a wonderful few months in the data visualization workshop world!

    My favorite part of data visualization workshops?

    The airports. Kidding.

    Watching jaws drop when folks are introduced to small multiples layouts for the first time. Definitely!

    What are Small Multiples?

    Small multiples layouts include 2 or 3 or 4 or more graphs – of the same size and scale – to allow for easy comparisons.

    Why Use a Small Multiples Layout?

    Old way: making a single aggregate chart that only displays means, medians, or frequencies from a bunch of different data series combined.

    New and improved way: designing a small multiples layout that gives viewers the information they really care about – the disaggregated data for their particular company, city, organization, or school.

    Additional benefits:

    • To compare changes over time, like the social network map below.
    • To compare changes across different groups.
    • To add context. Is an organization doing well? Who can really know for sure unless you compare the organization to a few others using a small multiples layout?

    What Can Be Made into a Small Multiples?

    Anything.

    Bar charts, histograms, geographic maps, line charts, social network maps, and more.

    Make a collage of several small charts. It’s really that easy.

    You can make these in nearly any software program. If they aren’t part of your software program’s menu of default options, don’t be afraid to dive in and use a little elbow grease.

    Examples of Small Multiples

    Here are a handful of the million+ ways to incorporate small multiples layouts into your charting repertoire:

    Example of a small multiples chart. Example of a small multiples chart using outlines of the United States. Example of a small multiples chart using network maps.Example of a small multiples chart using a histogram. Example of a small multiples chart using pie charts.Example of a small multiples chart using line charts.

    Your Turn

    Have you seen excellent small multiples charts in the wild? Link to your favorite examples here!

    More about Ann K. Emery
    Ann K. Emery is a sought-after speaker who is determined to get your data out of spreadsheets and into stakeholders’ hands. Each year, she leads more than 100 workshops, webinars, and keynotes for thousands of people around the globe. Her design consultancy also overhauls graphs, publications, and slideshows with the goal of making technical information easier to understand for non-technical audiences.

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