Single and Multi-Response Icon Arrays

I recently had the opportunity to work with the team at YouthPower to visualize their Systematic Review of Positive Youth Development in Low- and Middle-Income Countries.

They had a very common data visualization problem.  How do you differentiate the visuals for single response and multi-response data?  This is a place where a lot of people would use bar charts for both, leaving the reader wondering each time they get to a chart, “do these percentages add to 100?”.

My favorite approach to solving this problem involves icon arrays.

Single Response Icon Array

A single response icon array is pretty simple.  In this chart, the N was equal to 108.  So I used 108 individual square icons to visualize the data.  Since there was no need to highlight a specific data point, I just used a single color for the entire chart with visual separation to distinguish between the findings.

Here is an excerpt from the report:

Multi-Response Icon Array

Multi-response icon arrays are going to be different.  Every single category is going to have the same N (so for this case, n=108).  So I essentially visualize each category separately and assemble them together.

The finished look has a bar graph feel, but with more visual precision.  It also constantly reminds the reader that each response is out of the total n.

Here is an excerpt from the report:

Creating Icon Arrays

There is no quick button in Excel you can use to create icon arrays.  And while it’s not impossible to find ways to develop them using Microsoft Office, I find it much easier to use sketch or illustrator.

If you’re interested in having me create something like this for your report, schedule a chat.