Dataviz Challenge #4: Can You Make a Small Multiples Bar Chart?

Jul 10th, 2013 / Data Visualization /

In the third dataviz challenge, we started talking about making several comparisons at once. For example, when the Innovation Network team and I surveyed nonprofits in the State of Evaluation 2012 research, we found differences between small, medium, and large nonprofits’ evaluation practices and capacity.
The “before” chart: Let’s examine the percentage of small, medium, and large nonprofits that reported using various evaluation practices. When making comparisons between subgroups, we often create clustered bar charts. A default Excel chart might look something like this:

Before: A default clustered bar chart

Before: A default clustered bar chart


Like I’ve mentioned before, there’s nothing technically wrong with this chart. But it’s too hard to find at-a-glance patterns.
The “after” chart: Here’s that same dataset as a small multiples bar chart:
After: Small multiples bar chart

After: Small multiples bar chart


I love small multiples bar charts because they allow us to see patterns instantly. Within a split second, you can see that the bars on the left side are a lot taller than the right side (quantitative vs. qualitative data collection practices). Within another second or two, you can also see a difference between the blue, green, and red bars –  small nonprofits were generally less likely to use these evaluation practices than medium or large nonprofits. What an improvement over the default chart!
The dataviz challenge: Re-create the “after” version in Excel, R, or some other free software program. When you’re finished, email me or tweet a screenshot to @annkemery.
Bonus: Instead of copying this dataset exactly, think about how you might use a small multiples bar chart in your own work. Can you re-create this chart using your own dataset?
The prize for playing: Beer or coffee, my treat, the next time you’re in DC; a professional development opportunity; and bragging rights.
I’ll post the how-to guide in two weeks. Happy charting!
P.S. Like what you see? Johanna Morariu and I would love to share dataviz principles with nonprofits at the upcoming #14NTC conference. Please vote for our session!

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