Disaggregating with Small Multiples

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?


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

Just 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.

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


small_multiples_bar_4 small_multiples_heat_map_2 small_multiples_network_mapssmall_multiples_histogram small_multiples_pie_3small_multiples_line

Want to make small multiples on your own?

Join my mailing list and I’ll send you visualization resources like the charts and slides used in today’s post.

Or, join an upcoming webinar, like this how-to webinar on December 8th where I give live demos and let you keep a bunch of Excel templates. Templates!? You bet.